“Direct Answers” from Wayne and Tamara
All In Good Time
I’m having a terrible time with stress. I work full-time, take graduate classes and have a busy family life. My young daughter has severe ADHD and was having problems at school that took me away from work.
My job is stressful, but I love it and it pays well. Yet I am often sent out of town for weeks at a time and expected to perform to high standards. We are due to move for my job this June, and I don’t know where yet. In addition, we’ve been coping with a medical condition from my son.
On top of this, we were already coping with severe financial stress. My husband developed a gambling problem two years ago. When I discovered it, my first impulse was to leave. But I was eight months pregnant and terrified of the idea of having the baby alone while caring for our rambunctious daughter.
So I gave my husband a list of tasks he had to accomplish to stay with me. To my surprise, he did all of these, including seeing a counselor and putting his name on a list making it illegal for him to enter casinos. I’ve seen the paperwork. It’s not just his word.
Working to be frugal, we paid off half his gambling debt last year.
Yet for all the stress, I am deeply satisfied with my life, amazed even, at all we have overcome. The problem is my family and others make life harder. As a result, I cut off many people five months ago, including my mother and sister.
I tried to resolve the problem with my mother first. I wrote her a long letter about our issues. She did not take it well. We had a phone call, and I fell into our old negative habits where I accepted her punishment and begged for forgiveness.
After the call, I felt cheated. I was not sorry for writing the letter. I meant every word of it. Nevertheless, since the call she’s been better. So, it seems the cards landed okay in the end.
I want to write my sister as well, but every time I start with “I miss you,” the letter stops because while I want to be loving, I don’t want to give ground. The letter stops because I am afraid it invites more stress.
I miss her. I really do. But I am hurt by what she says and does. For instance, when I visit my hometown, she lectures me about how I don’t visit enough, how it hurts my mother’s feelings I have a better relationship with my dad, and how she doesn’t want to lie to mom that I am in town.
I told my sister she never has to lie. I am not hiding that I am in town, but when the purpose of my visit is something else, I can’t overburden myself trying to see everyone.
I want to give our relationship the chance to repair before we move, but time is ticking and I am frozen.
Zena, in the last episode of the TV show Columbo, Peter Falk matches wits with an Irish writer who is a murderer. The writer has a habit of marking how much he will drink each day by scratching a line on his whiskey bottle. With each mark he says, “This far and no farther.”
You have two children, medical problems, an ex-gambling husband and a stressful job. Watch over your kids, watch over your husband (because a single action of his could undo all you have repaired) and watch over your job. That’s it. That’s what your life is about now.
Next year your sister will still be your sister. This year you’ve done as much as you need to. You have come this far. There is no need to go farther.
Wayne & Tamara
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