A free personal online advice column

December 6, 2006
Dear Jenn,

In May, 2002, my husband of 1.5 years assaulted me in front of our two very young daughters (ages 2 and 9 mo. at the time). He told me to deal with the kids myself, walked out, and I never saw him again. I later learned that moved to another state with his mistress. I filed for divorce, and it was granted in September, 2003. The judge ruled that he abandoned the children and would need to petition the court if he wanted any visitation rights at all.

While he was gone, I maintained a relationship with his mother. She adored the girls, and I wanted to nurture that. After all, it's not like it's her fault that her son is the way he is.

Last year, my ex-husband and his girlfriend moved back. Our girls are now 5 and 6 years old. He has had no contact with them the entire time. I don't want him around them. His mother has gotten very angry with me, has stopped calling, and is saying very nasty things about me because I won't let him see them. With her behavior, I don't want my girls around any members of that family. I hate it because my girls really love their grandma and have been asking when they can visit. What do I do?

Dear Ex-Daughter-In-Law,
On one hand, you have every right to demand that this man stay away from your kids, and the courts have legally agreed with you. On the other, it's a difficult decision to have to make to keep your kids away from certain members of the family, particularly family members that they have grown attached to.

I have friends that have chosen both routes in similar situations. One chose to allow her kids as much contact with their father as they wanted, even purchasing gifts or cards for the father's birthday, Father's Day, or Christmas. Another friend has taken great steps to make it very difficult for the father to have any contact at all. He was abusive (to her, not the children) and has not been an active part of their lives for many years. She would prefer that he stay away permanently. She moved to another state with her new man to make it very difficult for him to keep contact. So far, it's been working.

Essentially what you need to do is decide what is best for your children. If having a relationship with their grandmother (which would inevitably mean a relationship with their father) is important enough, then you need to take your ex-husband back to court and set up the proper child support. (Hey, I bet you could get him charged with back payments, too - With that kind of financial threat looming on him, it will be a good test to see if he really wants to be a part of their lives or not!)

Should you decide that your children will be healthier if he were not a part of their lives at all, then you have the legal paperwork to back up your decision. Let your ex- mother-in-law squawk all she wants. You are completely within your legal right to do this. And, while your children might miss her now, they are young enough and they will move past it.

Just examine all the pros and cons thoroughly. Your number one job is to protect them. Try to put your own emotional investment aside. That isn't always easy to do, but if you make this decision out of what you honestly believe is the best choice for your children, then you are doing your job as their mom.

November 16, 2006
Dear Jenn,

I have a friend who has been copying much of what I do or buy for the past couple of years. I've tried to ignore it, but lately it has gotten worse. Now she is dressing like me and wearing her hair like mine. (A drastic change for her.) I feel she has now crossed the line and I must address this, but I'm not sure how to do it. I don't think she's unstable, just suffers from poor judgment (I hope). Should I try to be kind, or let her know how upset (and unnerved) I am about this? Please help!

Dear A Little Freaked Out,
The easiest thing to tell you is that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," but that doesn't exactly put your uneasy feelings to rest, does it? The flattering part is that she thinks you are SO cool, she wants to look, talk and dress like you! What a better compliment than to know that your style is so awesome, someone else wants to put that style on her person?!? Poor judgment? I'd have to say she has excellent judgment, wouldn't you?

Okay, in all seriousness, though, flattery only goes so far and it can get awfully annoying when someone continues to blatantly imitate you. After all, we are a society of individuality, and for someone to steal our uniqueness just sucks! I imagine talking to her about it won't help, as she will just deny that she does it, and point out all the teeny little things she does that are different from you, avoiding the big things like the drastic thing she did to her hair.

But that is really all you can do - Talk to her about it. Do it in a concerned way, not in an accusatory way. Don't put her on the defensive right away. And if she's not receptive to your concerns, then, well, how good of a friend is she? Your friendship will probably never be as close as it once was, and you can always take comfort in the fact that your friends know that you did it first. And, in their eyes, she looks like a fool.

On a personal note: I once started working in this office several years ago when I had the popular "Jennifer Aniston" haircut. Within a year, two of the girls I worked with, who had almost waist-length hair, had gotten almost identical cuts. It was irritating, and I never said anything, but I just told myself, "At least I did it first."

October 27, 2006
Dear Jenn,

I have a problem. I've had this problem as long as I can remember, and I'm 37 now. The problem is procrastination. It's bad. I keep pushing off things. Not just to the last minute, sometimes even way beyond. Somehow I let everything interrupt me, lead me away from the things I should do. I'm missing important dates and appointments, and I'm not getting work done.

Some examples: In college, I handed in my thesis one month late. It was pure luck that the professor accepted it. At work, I pushed off a report for a client for eight weeks. It only took one day to complete, and I blamed it on a lost email. Healthywise, I haven't been to the dentist in years, need to see the eye doctor, and my knee is acting up too. I've missed birthdays, dates, and flights, because I did not pay attention.

In other parts of my life, I'm very successful and don't have problems (work, financials, etc.). Basically I'm a very happy person. But I can't find the right way to break my bad procrastination habits forever. Please help!

Dear Procrastinator,
Procrastination is a form of depression, in most cases. This doesn't sound like it's primarily your problem, since you've indicated that it's been a problem most of your life. However, it sounds like you have been having trouble placing the proper priorities to the things you procrastinate on. This, too, can be a sign of depression.

I hear a bit of contradiction in your letter, though. On one hand, I hear you saying that you are successful in many areas of your life - work, finances, etc. But you stated earlier that you've handed in reports late, missed appointments, and so on. Aren't these very things jeopardizing your job? And, in essence, jeopardizing your finances?

Some people have to hit "rock bottom" (so to speak) in order to get themselves mentally back on track, prioritizing things in life that alleviate the guilt of putting them off. Eventually you will miss one too many birthdays of a family member, and they may stop talking to you. Eventually that late reprot might cost you your job. Eventually that missed flight might end up costing you more than you have available to fix the error in judgment. Eventually you will get a cavity/absess/infection that is very painful, and you will go to the dentist.

But how do you fix it? Unfortunately, this is not something that can be solved with a simple email. Only you know what creates a "priority" in your own mind. Will you need to hit "rock bottom" before you stop procrastinating? Or is it as simple as filling out a list of things to do and giving yourself a big gold star next to each one as you complete them? Only you can answer that. Training your mind to think of things in a different way is called "Behavior Therapy," and it can be short-term, albeit very intensive. If you've attempted home remedies (including self-help books), then I suggest you find a therapist that specialzies in Behavior Therapy and see if he or she can help you start prioritizing the things in life that you feel need to be more important.

Good luck! And feel free to tell me if you come up with a solution, because I sure could use some help in that area, too!


October 13, 2006
Dear Jenn,

I am a well known businessman in my community. I belong to a well recognized service club. I spend about 10 to 15 hours per week on this charitable activity. I have been president, and chairperson of its major fund raising effort. For nine years I sat on the board of directors, as the club's secretary. Part of that role was to ensure our volunteers were aptly recognized for their efforts, such as plaques, press releases, etc. When I was president and twice the chair of the fundraising, no such recognition was given to me. The though nags at me that my efforts were not really appreciated. But I also know that the group, I was mainly the one who recognized other's good deeds. I am thinking of resigning and moving out of the area. As a business person, I know how important it is to recognize my employees for their good work. Why can't my fellow club members think this way? I was so proud of my accomplishments during my term with the club, but I have nothing to hang on my wall to remind me!

Am I wrong to feel this way? Am I feeling sorry for myself? Is this the club's way of telling me that I really did not do an effective job?

Dear Unappreciated,
First off, let me say that it is EXTREMELY admirable of you that you have dedicated so much of your free time to your community and in charities that you believe in. That is so much more than most people contribute, and wanting to be recognized for this is understandable. Even if this were not volunteer work, feeling taken advantage of in any situation, be it with friends, family, or at a paying job, is a morale-killing emotion that can wreak havoc on your sensibilities.

It is a WONDERFUL trait that you have to ensure that you recognize others for their hard work. That is the sign of a truly appreciative manager, and one that I can guarantee that your subordinates appreciate in ways you will never know, probably bragging to their friends and family what a wonderful boss you are to work for! Wanted to be treated in the way you go out of your way to treat others is a perfectly natural response. Regardless of how things work out for you in this situation, try to ensure that you never lose that trait - it is invaluable and a bit of a lost art these days.

The mature, higher-ground approach to this would be to realize in your heart of hearts that you have given 110% of your efforts to these causes and that, in itself, should be its own reward. And it's probably not far off the mark for you to realize that those around you obviously don't have the sensitive and generous values instilled in them that you were raised with, so it becomes all too easy to overlook the gestures of appreciation you are so accustomed to giving out. It would be, unfortunately, viewed as childish and whiney if you were to flat out ask for any recognition. There are housewives all over the world that struggle with this mentality everyday. So what to do?

There is a slightly manipulative approach that crosses my mind, however, if you are game. :-P Perhaps you could organize a "Man of the Year" type award. This would be a person who is voted for amongst the other members of the Board as the person they feel deserves exceptional recognition for their efforts. Or create any type of award, series of awards, or certification that you feel you would ultimately be qualified for, but it must be something that others vote on, so you don't appear to be TRYING to procure it for yourself. If you are overlooked once again, then perhaps it's time to take some emotional inventory and decide what will cause you the least amount of stress from here on out: Continuing your tireless efforts and not being recognized for them, or minimizing your time and effort and focusing your energies on the other priorities in your life. When asked why your involvement has waned, you can simply say, "I didn't really feel appreciated, so I felt that my time would be better spent doing ___."

You DO deserve the recognition. Don't cheapen your efforts by thinking that you have done anything wrong or unacceptable. Unfortunately, you just can't ask for it. This is one of the few instances where "talking about it" is just not a solution. Either you accept that you may never get the recognition you crave or move on to different arenas where you will be appreciated.


October 12, 2006
Dear Jenn,

I've been with my wife for almost 27 years and find that I am very unhappy. Almost 9 years ago she had to have a full hysterectomy and since that time has had no sex drive at all. I'm not a sex addict but physical intimacy is important to me, whether it's sex or just snuggling. My problem is I need to feel desired and I'm not getting that. I feel like I'm just a direct deposit provider and that is about it.

Dear Frustrated,
I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know when I say that COMMUNICATION is really the only way that you will find any compromise in this situation. Since it has been almost a decade since her hysterectomy, I assume that she has long since gone off her Hormone Replacement Therapy.

On a psychological level, hysterectomies can be quite devastating to a woman. Even if a woman has already had her children, or has no plans to ever have children, having a hysterectomy most commonly makes a woman no longer feel she is a "real" woman - after all, having children is essentially what makes a woman a woman. I have actually heard of marriages breaking up over this type of psychological damage. While a man need not give up all sexuality in a marriage because of this, he should be aware and sensitive to the trauma that such a surgery can cause.

All women are different, so there is no guaranteed fix-it solution to this. You need to open the lines of communication with your wife and, together, figure out what the two of you can do to jump start her libido again.

There are, of course, prescription and all-natural supplements that are designed to boost a woman's sex drive as well, if she might be open to something along those lines. Have her talk to her doctor for a recommendation if that is the route you both decide on.

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