Dear Margo: Like Two Ships in the Night

My husband has become a night owl and I don’t like it! Margo Howard’s advice

Like Two Ships in the Night

Dear Margo: I love my husband very much, but he has some OCD traits, and over the years they’ve gotten worse. (We’re both in our 60s.) He’s retired but still “working.” He spends all day on the computer, checking security updates, reading a list of forums that interest him and doing other things he deems essential. If we go out in the evening, which is rare, he speaks of “getting behind” in his “work.” The list of stuff he “has to do” has gradually pushed our dinnertime later and later. Added to all this is the fact that he has a lot of medical problems and sleeps very poorly, so he often gets up around 1:00 pm or later in the day. The result of all this is that he now expects me to eat dinner with him at 10 or 10:30 at night.

I am a morning person. I really hate eating late, going to bed even later, and getting up the next day at noon — which is what happens if I go along with his schedule. I have talked to him about changing, and he claims he’s trying to do so, but it never happens. I have my own friends and an active social life without him, but I’m still not happy. I miss the husband I used to have. Is there anything I can do to change this situation? –Missing Him

Dear Miss: Your husband’s “work” sounds harmless enough. I believe it’s his schedule that’s throwing a monkey wrench into your life. For the OCD situation, as well as the schedule he has slipped into, I would recommend a therapist and also a psychopharmacologist, since there are effective meds with which to treat OCD. I think if that happens, you can “get him back” and his vampire hours will moderate. Having your own activities is the right thing to do. As for dinner at 10 (just like Spain!), I suggest you eat separately and keep the schedule that’s comfortable for you until he gets both help and results. –Margo, hopefully

Being Rude Via Text Message

Dear Margo: Yesterday, my daughter’s 14-year-old friend “Sarah” was disrespectful to me in a text message when I asked her to pass some information along to the coach of their team. (My daughter was home sick, and I did not have the coach’s information to reach her myself.) The text message bothered me all day, and I have no idea how to deal with it. I know the girl’s mother very well. She is a wonderful person, and we get along well. She would be beside herself if she knew that Sarah texted me what she did.

Do I say something to this kid next time I see her? Do I mention it to her mother? I am getting conflicting opinions from friends. I’m afraid that if I don’t speak my mind, I will have a difficult time containing my feelings of disappointment the next time Sarah is at my house. My daughter is very upset at what transpired, but Sarah is known to have attitude issues. It often surprises me that they are friends, but my daughter is very honest about telling Sarah that her attitude needs to change. I don’t want my daughter to get involved, so I am not expecting her to say anything about this. –Irked Mom

Dear Irk: This rude kid is 14. You are … well, you are older. I would not get down on the kid’s level to set her straight. If you were to bring up the text message, it would mean absolutely nothing to this teenager with attitude, so spare yourself the agita. What would be good is if your daughter told her she didn’t appreciate it. But I would not lean on your child to do this. When next she is at your house, I would be correct, but chilly. –Margo, maturely

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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57 Responses so far.

  1. avatar ForMy4Babies says:

    LW2:  I disagree.  If I were Sarah’s mother (particularly if I was wonderful), I would want to know that my daughter had been that rude.  Assuming you still have the text in your phone, I would meet her mother for coffee and tell her you have something you feel you need to share with her and show her.  If it was something your daughter had done, wouldn’t you want to know?  There is so much going on these days with kids, whenever the “village” is available to help look after (i.e. raise) them, I feel we should all pull together and, whether we like the message or not, share it.  I know I would want to know if one of my children pulled something like that.  And I can guarantee that not only would he or she have to personally apologize for their behavior, but it would be a long time before they had the opportunity to do something like that again because their phone would no longer be in their possession.  

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Agreed. Telling a parent sometimes bites ya in the butt, but at least you did what you would want done. I was also told not to tell a good friend of mine that his 8 year old was calling mine a stupid f’er–to the point of my kid being in tears. He wasn’t even sure what it meant. The parents confronted the boy, he denied it and they believed him. I see very little of them now. The sad part is the mother is a lieutenant police officer in charge of investigations & should have been able to tell he was lying. Then again, her husband lies constantly & she doesn’t get that either. I doubted my son briefly then when I saw the boy in question the guilt on his face was very overwhelming.

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        well of course they believed the 8-year old over an adult… grown-ups are known for lying about children all the time, just to get them in trouble.

        whereas 8-year olds are paragons of truth. obviously some solid parenting there.

    • avatar P S says:

      Yep. I’d show the Mom of this rude child the text message as well and let Mom handle it from there. I would want to know if my daughter was rude that way to someone so I could handle it, and it’s my general observation most other parents are the same.

  2. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: I am in the same situation..except I am like your hub (which is why I am replying at midnight) . Understand that it is about control & anxiety. Funny thing for me though is if I go away from the house I am fine-even for a week. As soon as I get back though, I have to go straight to the office. If my kids start getting rambunctious or I get overwhelmed off I go. It’s a release (solitude) & an obsession. Please know he does want to change, but like any other addiction or OCD issue, the draw or anxiety will supercede everything else. I hope he will agree to some form of therapy whether medical or counseling. For me, this will pass & I just segue to a new obsession every so often. Over 20 years, mine have been soaps, genealogy, sudoku, solitaire, briefly a video game, a good book. My healthy one is exercise. Pretty much anything I can absorb myself in. My argument is at least it’s not drugs, alcohol, affairs. video games, overeating, etc. I would be curious if you try going to bed earlier if he will too. My need to be alone (I have 4 kids under 8) is so overwhelming that I will stay up about 1.5-2 hours after everyone else is in bed. If they go to bed at 9, I go at 11. Them at 11, me 1am. And do know that he does truly want to do what you desire. I mentally reprimand myself every single day that tonight I will go to bed earlier & get up when everyone else does, but here I am… Que sara, sara.

  3. avatar Amy says:

    Wow. A rare double-miss from Margo. His “work” is definitely NOT harmless. Anyone who treats security updates and forum browsing as work needs serious intervention, especially if it’s impacting his marriage so negatively. How long has your hubby been this way? Has he refused counseling? He says he’s trying to change, but at the same time doesn’t appear to care one iota for your feelings. Before he becomes even more bitter, distant and insufferable, please stage an intervention and get him help. If he refuses, go alone. If things still don’t improve, hit the highway. You deserve better than to be locked into a borderline emotionally abusive marriage.

    To LW#2: For god’s sake, tell her mother! You have written evidence. The girl clearly needs a lesson in behavior and attitude. Ideally a swift kick to the rear, but I’d say that inviting her mother over for coffee and chit-chat should open up the door to a deeper discussion on her daughter and the alarming behavioral problems she’s been showing.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Borderline emotionally abusive marriage?  Does the word abuse mean so little these days that you can throw it around willy-nilly?  Apparently so.

      • avatar Mandy McNalis says:

        Yeah, that was my thought, too. If that’s abuse my husband is battered because of my weird schedule.

        • avatar Amy says:

          He gets agitated when they go out stating he’s missing out on his “work”, and demands that she adhere to his insane, unhealthy sleep schedule. She’s obviously miserable and stressed. Yeah, I’d call that borderline emotional abuse. I didn’t say physical abuse anywhere in my comment.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Yes, but your husband has you trained by the years of unending abuse of picking up his socks anyway and putting them in the basket for him. Trained. Like. A. Little. Lap. Dog.

            That’s how the abuse is so insidious and sad.

            So sad.

          • avatar Mandy McNalis says:

            Firstly, no where in the letter does it mention DEMANDING anything. The fact that you keep insisting that this is emotional abuse leads me to this advice for YOU, Amy:

            Stop projecting, get some therapy, because you’re reading things into Dear Margo letters that aren’t there and that’s a sure sign that you’ve got some deep-seated issues boiling under the surface and don’t want to face.

          • avatar Jon T says:

            I have to agree that the word “abuse” is being tossed around a little too liberally here. For one thing, the LW clearly mentioned she still has friends of her own and an active social life. Those aren’t exactly symptoms of someone being abused, emotionally or otherwise. Passive aggressive is a much more accurate description of his behavior. It still warrants therapy, but by her own description she’s frustrated by his behavior (understandably). She’s not being held captive to it.

  4. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  It sounds like your husband is an online addict and I suspect there are many retirees who turn to the internet to occupy their time and become a little obsessed with it. Other retirees take up woodworking or short wave radio and spend all their time in the basement workshop. Unless he has an online *friend*, I agree that the hobby is relatively harmless, but I am not of the school that spouses should spend every waking, breathing, or sleeping moment together.  He wasn’t at your beck and call when he was working so how should that change because he is retired?  Some people need their alone/independent time.

    I don’t think it is unusual for people in their 60s to have problems sleeping a full 8 hours at a time or have their days and nights mixed up…its one of those things that come with age for many.  I just woke up after three hours sleep…will be up for an hour or so…then go back to bed.  I’ve had these issues since menopause despite hormone therapy and with retirement, without a fixed schedule..they have become worse.  Sometimes I’m up at 5:30 AM and sometimes I sleep until 11 AM.  Sometimes I nap and sometimes I don’t.  Some days I watch judge shows for 2 hours straight and some days I play word games on the computer. 

    Continue with your own hobbies and social life.  Fix dinner and eat it when you want to and put his in the oven on warm.  Maybe the prospect of eating dried out chicken and wilted salad every night will prompt him away from the computer to eat dinner with you.  Getting a physical and perhaps some meds if he truly does have OCD or a sleeping disorder is not a bad idea also.

    LW#2:  Yes, its upsetting when anyone is rude to you but I agree with Margo.  She is a 14 year old brat but she is not your brat.  Telling the mother, even with the evidence, will more likely than not resolve nothing and may make things hard on your daughter as the brat will take it out on her, tell their friends her mother is a busybody blah blah blah.  After all, this is the woman who raised the rude child to begin with and I  doubt if her rudeness to you is an exception to her normal conduct which her parents either cannot or will not correct.  I would use it as a lesson to your daughter as *how not to behave* and be, as Margo said *correct but chilly* towards the brat.   

  5. avatar Poppy says:

    I’m sorry, but what are you doing texting a 14 year old who is not your child? You should have contacted her mother and asked her to pass the information along to the coach via her daughter. You can tell the girl’s mother, or not, but IMO you crossed a boundary by texting this girl.

    • avatar Erin Sikes says:

      Why is texting crossing the line? It is the preferred method of quick communication for people under 40. Would you say the same of an email? A voicemail?

      “Sarah, would you please let the coach know that Allison needs to exchange her jersey for a smaller size?” or “Sarah, would you let the coach know that I can drive four kids to the tournament on Saturday?”

      How is that crossing the line? If the mother is at work, and Sarah is going to practice before she sees her mother, then involving Sarah’s mother is unnecessarily complicated, and probably a nuisance to them both.

    • avatar Lila says:

      The is exactly why so many kids today are so clueless: because so many of them have parents who think no other adult ever has any business talking directly to THEIR precious child, because any other adult (even parents of precious child’s friends) must be a pervert or something, or at any rate has NO RIGHT!! NONE!! to say ANYTHING to my little Susie!

      All this accomplishes is to make things unnecessarily complicated, as Erin says, and such parents also deprive their kids of valuable input and mentoring from a host of other competent, caring adults. Not to mention the kid knows his parents have this attitude, which results in, “F U! You’re not my mom, you can’t tell me what to do!” Okay, kid, go ahead and play in traffic/play with fire/cook your own meth. Not MY place to suggest otherwise.

      What ever happened to “it takes a village?”

      • avatar Lila says:

        I would never think of punishing someone’s kid, but I fully expect that I should be able to SAY something to them, positive or negative, if their behavior warrants it. They are young humans, not some separate species, and they don’t magically manifest as “people” at age 18 with all rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto. Childhood is about learning, and that should include learning to deal with being in public, and that means interacting with adults and even strangers in a civil way (in public, aren’t most of the people around us strangers?).

        If I see a kid, say, painting a landscape in a park and it’s really good, can’t I say, “Wow, you’re really talented”? And if he reponds with “FU, b****.” can’t I immediately react with, “Well, that was uncalled for”? Just seems like these days, even that small interaction risks landing you on the sex offenders database. Too bad, because so many kids get so little spontaneous social interaction until they hit near-adulthood and suddenly have to figure out how to deal with – (gasp) – strangers! It’s a case of over-protecting and over-defending the kids to the point that they have some catching up to do later.

        Oh, and all the rudeness we see today? Might be former kids who grew up thinking they answered to no one but Mommy.

        • avatar A R says:

          Despite the claims that “I would want something said to me/my kid if they were doing wrong”, people don’t really want this. Why? Because seldom will they agree with you about what their child was doing wrong, including whether it WAS wrong.You are right that you *theoretically* should be able to correct a child who is doing wrong, however reality and theory are different.

          • avatar A R says:

            Well, that’s my point, April. Ideally you say you want to know because you are looking at it from what is acceptable in *your* family and what you would not allow you children to do–like backtalk or complaining, etc. However, the minute some well-meaning adult calls your kid on the carpet about a thing that *your family* doesn’t find to be rude (or calls you about a silly thing that they’ve made a huge deal of), you’ll raise your eyebrows as fast as the rest of the world. It may even change your opinion of the adult who is “helping”.
            Everyone thinks they want to know, but only if it is something they agree with.

    • avatar Lynde says:

      I agree with you Poppy. Miss bossypants should have informed the coach herself. You can’t delegate duties to everyone surrounding you just because you can send text messages. Geeesh!

  6. avatar Elaine says:

    LW #2 has a good opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with the rude 14-year-old. Setting her straight on texting etiquette will benefit her in the future with employers and other people who could influence the course of her life. Try not to get emotional (“This is very rude and I am very upset” won’t make any kind of impression), just instructional. Make sure to be very specific about what parts of the text were offensive; suggest alternatives. The kid will probably take an attitude anyway. LW can respond with “I haven’t taken this up with your mother; maybe I should?” It’s not the end of the world, but if LW says her piece, she did the best she could. Another commenter also has a good point: Find someone else (some adult) to communicate with. 14-year-olds are unreliable, if not rude and frustrating.

  7. avatar crystalclear says:

    Letter One:   This letter brings to mind the couple who has been married for decades absorbed in raising children, their work, and perhaps lived their lives with very little quality time together.  Then the children leave home both retire and now they don’t know what to do with each other.  The husband seems to have created a life of not having to interact with his wife.   He doesn’t find her interesting enough to change himself.   After all, he created these activities to spend his time alone…away from her.   Call it ADD or OCD or whatever you want, but at the core of this problem is a long term marriage where bonding never occurred.   They probably were never “friends” throughout their marriage and we all know important it is to have our life partner not only be our friend but our best friend.   My diagnosis:   hubby is probably addicted to online porn and is carrying on a “relationship” with someone on the internet.   In other words, he gets all he needs and more emotionally in his office while on the computer.  

    If I were unlucky enough to be his wife,  I would carve out my own life to do the things that I never had time to do before retirement.  I would arrange dinners out with old friends, go to the movies, library and museums.    If religious, I would join a church choir, take up knitting, go to the gym, take long walks, and the best part of alll….I WOULD TRAVEL WITHOUT HIM. I would also have cosmetic surgery if needed, buy new clothes and a new hairstyle!  We are all responsible for our own happiness and should never make another person responsible for providing that happiness.    In other words, I would LIVE MY BEST LIFE while he slaved away on his computer to all hours of the night (probably emailing his online sex pot who lived across on the west coast and three hours behind his time zone).   WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU LEMONS MAKE LEMONADE!   

    Letter Two:   The Internet, texting, emailing etc turns some people into hateful bullies who understand that it is okay to be a horse’s a** without having to take responsibility for their choice of words.    It has brought out the dregs in society who hide behind a computer screen and take out their horrible personal experiences on innocent people.    Yes, it has come to that.    Then again, it also provides interacting with good people with great ideas.

    I will agree with Margo on her advice to “let it go” because a 14 year old brat would probably plaster the text reprimanding her around the circuit with her own comments.   In other words, don’t feed the alligator.   Let someone else feed the alligator and take the high road by putting this incident into the column of “Things I Cannot Control.”     It isn’t worth the mother’s time to get down on the same level as the hormonal brat.    Ahhh, a teaching moment here, too, for the mother and her daughter by discussing why it is not good to reply in words but better to respond by avoiding contact with the girl.    I wouldn’t tell the mother or anyone else.  After all, it’s a small issue, in my opinion. 

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      I agree with you (and Margo) about LW2. 14 is 14.

      Although I’m interested in seeing exactly how disrespectful the message was – if it said “whatever”, then I think the LW is overreacting, but if it said “thanks, c**t”, I think someone needs to talk to the girl. Probably it’s somewhere in between, and it seems like the thing to do is let it go and see what happens when she’s 19.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      There is nothing to suggest that he has an online porn habit or someone online.  She stated what he is doing online and she did not state that she doubted that is what he is doing. 

  8. avatar D says:

    Before I come down on this kid, I would like to see this “disrespectful” message. I am not saying I do not believe the mother, but I have to see what I am dealing with. The mother could be overly sensitive.

    If the message is determined to be disrespectful, I would first talk to the other girl and give her a chance to explain herself. Maybe she did not realize that the text was disrespectful. Maybe that text was meant for someone else. Maybe the friend has a problem with the daughter. Maybe the daughter and the girl really aren’t friends. Just because Sarah supposedly has attitude problems does not mean that the message came from those attitude problems. If the explanation is not satisfactory, then the mother should be involved.

    How does the mother not have the coach’s contact information? Assuming this is a school-based team, why not just call the school and leave a message for the coach? If the mother absolutely has to contact Sarah, why is the mother sending text messages instead of just calling the girl? I doubt the girl would have been so disrespectful over the phone. If she indeed does have attitude problems, should the disrespectful text message really surprise anyone?

    • avatar Kriss says:

      Excellent points. 

      I’ve seen plenty of people take offense at emails where none was intended because the email was short and to the point.

      I could easily see that it’s possible the LW, knowing that Sarah sometimes has an attitude problem  (meaning she’s already biased towards the girl being disrespectful), taking offense at a short text where none may be intended.

      as to the mom texting the girl—it was probably the surest way to get hold of the girl.  kids today constantly text & will let their phones go to vm & not listen to the vm in a timely manner.  If the mom is already in the habit of texting her own daughter then she wouldn’t think twice about texting one of the friends to get a message to them.

      you are right.  The mother should have had the coach’s contact info to deliver the message herself but she didn’t & we can sit here and say “should have, should have, should have” all day but it doesn’t accomplish anything & it doesn’t help her with the problem that she has right now.

      personally, I’d opt that it was a misunderstanding (unless it was obviously disrespectful such as, calling her an insulting name), ignore it, make sure I have the coach’s contact info moving forward, & get on with life.

  9. avatar KDot says:

    I had a situation with a friend of one of my son’s, that while different, was due to a similiar attitude as the teen in LW2’s letter. The mother of this friend called my house to speak to her son, who was ignoring her calls on his cell phone (unbeknown to me); she wanted him to get ready to leave so she could pick him up. I handed him the phone and listened to him berate his mother for bothering him, and told her that he would leave when he was darn good and ready. As soon as he hung up, I told him in no uncertain terms that how he related to his mother was, I guessed, his business, but I would not tolerate him speaking to anyone, especially his mother, that way in my home and on my phone, or he would not be welcome back under any circumstances. I made him get back on the phone, apologize to his mother and tell her he would be ready to go when she got there. Then I dropped it. I don’t presume that I solved his attitude problem with his parents in the least, but he sure knew what the rules were at my house; he never displayed that attitude in my home again, and he never ignored one of his mother’s phone calls while at my home again, either.

    My feeling on LW2: the interaction was between the teen and the LW, THAT is where the disrespect was dished, and the LW should firmly state how offensive it was directly to the teen and tell her that if she isn’t going to tolerate that type of behavior again, so either clean up her act or take it elsewhere. Then, she can get on the phone and tell her mother what the teen texted and what she’d been told. This is the best way for the teen to learn real-world consequences for her actions and attitude. Mommy isn’t always going to be there to run interference for her rudeness, and needs to learn that starting NOW.

  10. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: This is out of control. You shouldn’t be expected to eat dinner T