Ask Amy: Retired man feels forced to leave his house

Dear Amy: I wonder if my expectations are too high, or if my wife is controlling me?

I do not feel welcome in my own house.

Every week my wife asks me for my schedule (I am retired) for the coming week to make sure that I am out of the house for the better portion of several days.

Fortunately, I have elderly and disabled family members to care for, volunteer work and friends so I can usually find a reason to be gone, but some days I just leave the house to make her happy.

For those days or parts of days when I am home, my wife wants me to agree to the specific time I will be leaving and returning.

My wife does not work, have family nearby, or volunteer.

In her defense she does not drink, take drugs or spend money excessively and I am quite sure my being gone is not so she can arrange a tryst with another man (although we have not been physically intimate for over 12 years).

Perhaps 50 times I have suggested that we should see a marriage therapist for this and other reasons, but she refuses.

My impression is that this is my wife needing to exercise control, but perhaps this is normal in marriage, and I am too sensitive.

How do I get her to join me in marriage counseling when she refuses to go?

I do not want to live the rest of my life like this.

— Controlled Husband

Dear Controlled: I agree with you that this is an extreme example of control.

It’s your house, too. You have the right to spend time there, whenever you want.

Retirement can be a very tough transition for couples, especially if one partner has spent their career taking care of house and home while the other leaves for work. When that balance changes, it can throw both of you off.

You don’t report asking your wife why, exactly, she wants you out of the house so much. She might respond that she is used to her privacy during the day, and she wants to bleach her mustache or dance to oldies in her bathrobe without you being there.

Or she might say that when you’re home you make little nests in every room and that she feels like she is always picking up after you.

I think it’s a good thing for couples to sit down and more or less map out their schedules for the week. But you should not leave the house most days just to make your wife happy.

Your wife cannot make you leave your own home if you don’t want to, and you cannot make her join you in marriage counseling if she refuses to go.

You should seek therapy on your own. Think of it this way — it will be another hour or so every week where you will be elsewhere.

Dear Amy: I have to admit that I actually enjoyed one aspect of the global pandemic: Staying put over the holidays.

Now that travel and activities seem to be returning to pre-pandemic states, I’m wondering how to retain this one thing I enjoyed.

— Homebody

Dear Homebody: Now that we have all had the somewhat unusual experience of staying home for two (or more) years’ worth of holidays, those that have enjoyed this experience should do their best to maintain it. Stay put!

Maybe we all need to do less for ourselves and our own families. Those of us who are privileged with abundance and want to stay put — it would be great to donate our own holiday travel to others who want (and need) it.

Dear Amy: I loved your answer to the quibbling about Santa Claus and qualms over telling children a fairy tale [“No Gaslight”].

I am an old man now and one of my fondest memories is from the Christmas Eve when I was five.

We had just moved into a new house and my mom was visiting her sick mother. There were boxes and confusion everywhere.

My dad had set up only one bed and when he put me into it, he said, “I want you to listen for Santa’s footsteps on the roof.”

I fell asleep listening.

Seventy-five years later I can remember that so distinctly, as though it were yesterday. It is one of my fondest memories of my dad. I don’t resent the fiction one bit.

— Santa Fan

Dear Fan: This is so sweet. I’m glad your father granted you this wonderful memory.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] 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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