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Ask Amy: Husband's snide statements bewilder spouse

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 11 years. Throughout the duration of our marriage, he constantly makes snide remarks, such as, "Someone around here never wants to be responsible for her choices," or he will remark on how I am such a social butterfly that I know each person's name on our street, and that this is not normal behavior.

Honestly, I don't know what he is referencing with the "personal accountability" remarks, but I find it odd that it isn't somehow OK to know your neighbors.

Amy, is my husband jealous, or is he a narcissist?

-- Unsure

Dear Unsure: I am not able to use my amateur skills to diagnose a person, based on a couple of reported comments.

So, while I don't know what your husband IS, I do know how he acts -- like an angry, passive-aggressive spouse who doesn't quite have the capacity (or courage) to say what is really on his mind.

You two seem locked into an extreme version of the challenge all couples face, which is the need to communicate lovingly and respectfully -- even when you're confused, uncomprehending, or angry.

A shorthand version of how to communicate is for each partner to use "I statements" to express their feelings. So, instead of making a statement starting with "Someone around here..." your husband would be brave enough to say, "I feel angry (or bad, sad, or confused) when you don't take responsibility for your choices." And instead of you saying, "You're jealous (or a narcissist)," you would say, "I feel hurt when you criticize me for being friendly to our neighbors."

He is quite obviously lashing out at you, and you should assume that there are probably many different topics layered beneath the rude digs or cutting asides he is leveling at you. You should ask him: "I'm trying to figure out what you are really trying to say to me -- what you really want to know about me." You two would obviously benefit from counseling to work on your communication, and -- even though you both may be embittered, learning to talk about things will help both of you to clarify your emotions and your feelings toward each other.

You might benefit from reading Harriet Lerner's classic book on communicating: "The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You're Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate" (2002, William Morrow).

Dear Amy: I have enjoyed 10 years of emailing with an old high school flame.

As far as I know, we were both single and free to correspond. He was ever-present in my life, and we were in touch at least once a day. Recently, for the most part he has stopped communicating with me, and I am feeling anxious about his absence.

Should I continue to try to connect on occasion, or just stop emailing and let the relationship come to a natural end?

 

My thought is that he has found a romantic relationship that is now his primary focus and that I should take the hint. I do not want to let him down or harass him when he has better things to do.

Should I let go?

-- Faithful Correspondent

Dear Faithful: If you have been a daily presence in one another's lives, it would be most natural for you to have noticed -- and remarked upon -- his absence. You don't seem to have done that, and you should at least ask yourself why you don't feel comfortable enough to ask a natural question: "Hey, what's up? Are you OK?"

You could then go a little further: "I don't want to bug you, but I've noticed your absence and I just want to make sure that you haven't fallen down a well or something. If you have fallen down a well, send up a signal and I'll do what I can to help."

Dear Amy: "Wrathful Geek" described seeing the man who sexually abused her sibling in childhood at sci-fi conventions.

Thank you for your advice. These gatherings are attended by young and vulnerable people, and can be prime hunting grounds for predators.

I agree that Wrathful should check the Sex Offender Registry, but regardless of what she finds, she should notify security at the event.

-- Concerned

Dear Concerned: "Wrathful" described the perpetrator getting away with his crime, due to the family's refusal to notify the police. However, I assumed it was possible that he had offended elsewhere. I applaud this person's choice to try to protect others.

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(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

 

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