DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a stay-at-home father with a son and a daughter. My wife works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a law firm and travels frequently on the weekends. I feel my relationship with her is getting weaker, and I can see us drifting apart. I believe that we still love each other and are both committed to our marriage, but we see each other so little that it’s hard to maintain the type of relationship we had before work and kids got in the way. I don't want us to grow further apart and would love a way to redefine a new relationship. How do I do this? -- Stay-at-Home Husband, Dallas
DEAR STAY-AT-HOME HUSBAND: What you are feeling has historically been the feeling of the stay-at-home mom. As you are experiencing, it can seem disconcerting and uncomfortable to be in this position. You love your spouse and family and want nothing more than to remain close during the journey of your lives. This is where clear, compassionate communication comes in. Sit down with your wife and tell her how you are feeling. Better still, show her what she’s missing. Plan a special moment for the two of you where she can feel relaxed and at ease. Do things that remind her of how much you enjoy being in each other’s company. Extend that to moments when the whole family has a blast. Then sit with your wife and remind her of why you love each other. Ask her to carve out time for you and the family because you miss her and want to stay close.
Showing her your love rather than guilting her into spending more time with you should help her to see that the family is worth her focus.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My older sister and I are 18 months apart. Growing up with a sister this close in age may seem like a great idea because we can be "best friends," but it is terrible for me. Not only do we get into fights daily about sharing clothes, sharing the car, etc., my parents also treat us drastically differently. I understand that because she is older, she gets certain privileges that I don’t get yet, but the amount of attention she gets from my parents compared to me is huge. I want to talk to my parents about this and ask them to stop treating us differently, as my sister and I are both their daughters. Is this a good idea? -- Pissed-Off Sister, Portland, Oregon
DEAR PISSED-OFF SISTER: I think your plan will get your feelings hurt. Your parents are probably not consciously favoring your sister. That doesn’t mean you don’t experience their behavior in this way. Rather than pointing out what is bothering you, think of things you would like to do with your parents that will draw their attention more directly toward you.
As far as your relationship with your sister, figure out what boundaries you want to enforce. Be crystal clear about what bothers you and what points aren’t that important. Ask her to be more thoughtful. Create ground rules for when and how she can use your stuff. Build a friend base outside the family so that you don’t rely as much on your sister for your social satisfaction.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)