A free personal online advice column
December 6, 2006
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.