Dear Amy: I am really tired of my husband asking: “How can I help you?” “What can I do for you?” or “What do you need?”
Here’s why this upsets me: If I am cooking dinner for the both of us and he asks, “What can I do for you?” I think, well, you are eating this dinner too, so why not just ask, “What can I do?” Why is he offering to do something “for me”?
I get so frustrated that my response is: “...nothing.”
When I suggest that he just pitch in, he tells me that I do these household things so much better than he does.
He seems to want me to need him.
I don’t need him. I just want him to initiate the household work on his own.
He watches TV while I run around picking up the house or making dinner, and his only response is, “Am I in your way?”
I have tried not to get caught up in the semantics of his questions and to put a positive spin on it when he does help, but those times are few and far between. When he finally does something like putting a load in the washer, he needs to announce it like it’s the second coming. What can I do?
Dear Frustrated!: For those readers who would LOVE to have their spouse ask, “How can I help you?” I’m going to try and translate.
You are reacting to your husband’s assumption that housework is your work and that cooking, cleaning, and tidying up are your sole responsibility, with him being a “helper,” when he feels like offering.
You could ease your frustration by simply making an effort to communicate, versus what you are currently doing, which is expecting your husband to be a mind reader. (Your “...nothing” is passive-aggressive.)
Here’s one way to answer, “How can I help you?”: “Chop those veggies, will you? And, if you want clean clothes tomorrow, you should start a load of laundry.”
My point being that while you are stewing over his assumptions and semantics, you are missing opportunities to get this guy on board. And yes, you shouldn’t have to do that, but -- given that your husband is acting like an adolescent and you’re acting like his resentful mommy, you’ll have to start somewhere.
You two should be able to divvy up the household chores in a way that feels equitable for both. And if he isn’t as “good” as you are at performing some of these tasks ... oh well. You’re not in charge, and so you can tolerate that, right?
Dear Amy: My niece is turning 19, and she still doesn’t know that the man she calls “Dad” is not her biological father.
Her mom cheated on my brother and got pregnant. My brother stayed with her for a few years after that. She married and my niece has a wonderful stepfather.
Over the years, the father/daughter relationship deteriorated, but we are still close to her.
We have kept our mouths shut about her parentage because her mom asked us to.
We feel like the longer her mom waits, the more this will hurt her, especially with everyone around her knowing. For the last year, my niece has been asking about the family history, due to her own health issues. She is a good kid and we’re tired of lying to her!
Dear Aunt: I agree that your niece should be told the truth, and her parents (her mother, stepfather, and your brother) should be the people to tell her.
You could try to force the issue with your brother and his ex by saying, very honestly, that you hate passively lying to your niece, but that you refuse to actively lie to her, and that if she asks you, you will tell her the truth.
Dear Amy: I am dismayed at your response to “Broken,” when you suggested that she should confront her grandfather, who had molested her as a child. I hope you will rethink this dangerous advice.
Dear Dismayed: Other readers shared your concern, and I do agree it is important to stress that a survivor should not be pressured to confront her attacker.
“Broken” described confronting family who had not protected her as a child, as well as posting about this on social media. I suggested that one aspect of her healing could be to write a letter to her grandfather, certainly not confront him in person. She needn’t send the letter, but writing it would help.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.