Dear Margo: The Power of Neurosis

My disabled fiance needs my help all of the time, when do I get a moment for me? Margo Howard’s advice

The Power of Neurosis

Dear Margo: I am engaged to a wonderful guy who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. He can no longer work due to his condition and is home all day. He helps take care of the house, the pets, etc., and I work full time. This arrangement is fine with me.

The only problem is: I have absolutely no time to myself. He expects me to be home and with him every second that I’m not working. If I go into another room to be alone for a while, he’ll come in to see what I am doing. Occasionally, I make time to see my friends. He always wants to come along, which is fine most of the time, but sometimes I just want “girl time.” This always leads to an argument, as he is absolutely miserable when I come home. He insists that I call him (on speakerphone) while I am driving to and from work, and he wants to talk to me for at least 15 minutes of my half-hour lunch break.

Unfortunately, most of his friends have disappeared since he’s been in the wheelchair, so I do feel bad for him. But how can I make him understand that I need time to myself? My nerves are frayed, and I find myself getting snappy with him. I’d hate to break up over this issue, but I feel smothered. — Frazzled

Dear Fraz: Consciously or not, your fiance is using his illness to control you. You need to have a serious talk where you lay down new guidelines. While I understand where his demanding behavior comes from, it is not healthy, and you need not put up with it.

Tell your wonderful guy that you’re sure he’d want to be treated as a normal boyfriend, and not as someone who’s ill; therefore, you are no longer going to let him dictate to you. The demand for talking while driving is not only pushy; it’s dangerous. And setting a 15-minute talk at lunch is nuts. Tell him if he does not adjust (perhaps with therapy) to your having “girl time,” as well as time for yourself at home, you will have to rethink the relationship. If you continue this way, it will eventually wear thin and fall apart. — Margo, normally

Marrying “Up”

Dear Margo: Our family is Midwestern and middle-class. We were raised with what we needed, but there was not money for luxuries. When I married, it was to a guy from a similar background. We are very happy and are raising our two sons as we were raised. My sister, however, got a scholarship and went east to school. She married a boy from a rich family, and now her husband is in the family business, and they are living high on the hog. Or should I say “high on the horse”? Their country place is a horse farm! She seems not to remember where she came from or understand that we can’t do what they can. She asked if we wanted to go with them to England for a horse auction! How much of a discussion should I have with her? — Just Plain Old Me

Dear Just: Ah, yes, I know the type. She is trying her hardest to seem to the manure born. As for a discussion, I think a simple sentence will do it. “We really don’t have money for that.” If your sister is clueless now, it will probably only get worse. You’ll know she is in full-blown dowager mode when she sees a pile of autumn leaves on your lawn and says, “How beautiful! Where do you get them?” (Old joke.)

Your sister’s situation is not unheard of. Some people remember where they came from, and others would just as soon forget. I hope your understanding of what’s going on takes away the agitation. — Margo, earthily

* * *

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


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64 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW 1 – I am so sad that your significant other is disabled.  But there comes a time when enough is enough. Would you allow this from a man not disabled?  There comes a time when we must weigh things.  Allowing this poor behavior from someone who is disabled is not doing them any favors.  We would not allow it from anyone else so do not allow it from him .  He is using his disablility to control you and that is awful.  Shame on him 100 times over.

    LW 2 – Toot sweet – remind sister where you come from and that not all in the family have the finances to do what she wants.  A typical answer – “wow Sis – you are paying for our trip to France while you buy horses – how unstingy of you to do that for us – I love you so much”  She will be stuttering – for two reasons – figuring how to take bake the offer and how she upset everyone

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  Sorry, but your guy does not sound like a wonderful guy.  Not every person who has an illness or disability is a saint and more than a few use their situation to their advantage with no thought of others.  Which may explain why your bf’s *friends* have abandoned him.  Would you put up with this behavior if your bf were not in a wheelchair?  I’m not usually one to jump to the conclusion that a husband or bf is abusive or *controlling*.  But if this guy were not in a wheelchair everyone who is familiar with domestic abuse would see his behavior as classic warning signs.  I suppose you could try counseling.   Since you are not married and have no kids, I might try leaving him myself.  But then, I’m a notorious rebel and have always run like the wind from anyone who tells me what do to or when to do it even if their advice is for my own good.

    LW#2:  I don’t know what your family dynamic was like when you were growing up.  Margo is right that your response should be a straight forward *would love to but cannot afford it* to invitations to spend money you do not have.  But, if there was some rivalry going on when you are younger, and you were always the *favored* one, perhaps your sister is just trying to get a leg up so to speak in the game by flaunting her material success.  Not that it is right for her to do so.

    I do sense some resentment on your part that your sister *went east*  and *married a rich man*.   Owning a horse farm as a country place is not a evidence that your sister and her husband are devils.  Getting a scholarship indicates your sister did not just *luck* into this life.   She had the brains and gumption to go beyond her hometown and the life that you have chosen for yourself.  Which, as a midwesterner of a similar backround as yours, I will say is a wonderful life.   Whether she did it to advance socially or to expand her intellectual horizons or life experiences is not clear.

    I would not be too hard on her in your frank discussions telling her that your income just will not allow you to go to a horse auction in England.   She may realize you cannot afford it…or maybe she thinks that you could afford it for a special time and that she could share this fun experience with her sister.

    I guess over my life I have been in both places…the sister who has more money and the sister who has less money so I am trying to keep a balanced approach to this.              


  3. avatar Susan JH says:

    LW1, I agree with observations that your fiance is using his disability to control you.  I also think he is supremely lonely and if you are his only human contact, that needs to change.  If all his old friends abandoned him, he needs to be encouraged to make new ones and fast!  I agree with Katharine about the warning signs.  He is trying to isolate you to make it easier to abuse you and make it seem as if it is your fault.  Make some changes — either change the dynamics by bringing other friends into the mix or run — don’t walk — as fast as you can.

    • avatar Donna Sampson says:

      I think he is lonely and she is his only contact with the outside world. He is probably afraid of losing her too. He needs some type of hobby or activity to have something else besides the fiance to occupy his mind. If he gets involved in, say, a church or civic organization, he will have something elsed to think about.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Agree that he needs other friends/social contact.  Depending on the size of their community there may be a support group for MS or for the wheelchair-bound.  Perhaps more important, though, is for him to get involved with something, ANYTHING, that has inherent interest for him.  Surely a local political campaign could use help?  Or the library needs literacy tutors?  Or there’s a book group, or a hobby group, or *something*.  Transportation may be an issue, since I’m guessing he no longer drives, but that’s a minor practical concern to be worked out.  The big issue is his demand that she be his sole and constant companion.
      Too, the LW needs to get clear that if he’s “absolutely miserable” when she leaves him alone for a few hours, that’s not her worry, not her fault, and not her problem to fix.  It is not her job to sacrifice her own happiness to his manipulation.  “I’m sorry you were unhappy.  What do you plan to do about it?” is about all the answer this deserves.

  4. avatar sailbeb says:

    LW1:  I don;t think he is abusing or trying to control her .. he is trying to hang on to what little is  left of his left with his fingernails.  They should go together for counseling and maybe they will both be better off because of it.  Believe me, I understand, I have MS.

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      You bring up a good point. I don’t know if the fiance is trying to control her, but if his former friends have disappeared, he may be terrified that the LW will disappear, too. Some honest discussions between them, and perhaps some counseling, might get to the root of why he’s clinging to her.

    • avatar animelily says:

      This is what I thought too. I have a genetic condition that keeps me indoors most of the time and it can be very isolating and lonely. I’ve never gone so far as to demand phone calls all the time, but at my loneliest I could see myself acting that way. Is there a support group he can reach out to? He needs to find some other connection to the outside world, or it will drive the only one he has away.
      As for L2: I have the belief that money doesn’t buy happiness. It buys stability and lack of money can lead to stress and discord, but if you have enough to feel stable, then any more than that will not make you any more happy. I have some relatives who have stupid money: more money than they know what to do with. (Not all of them, but) a couple of them are some of the most miserable people I know, and are envious of everyone around them.  Your sister is not a better person because she has more money, but she may be doing her best to fit in in her new environment. Let her know that you just can’t afford to live the sort of lifestyle she lives, but she will always be your sister and that she’s always welcome.

    • avatar Carrie A says:

      I don’t see how forcing her to call him to and from work, for half of her lunch break, never allowing her to be alone in a room, and emotionally blackmailing her so she won’t see her friends is not trying to control her. He’s trying to control every aspect of her life! They definitely need counseling so he can stop his behavior before he drives her away and he doesn’t have anybody.

  5. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: My spouse is disabled and has tried being controlling in a similar manner. He still would tend towards that, **if I let him**. We’re married for years now, and I immediately addressed his codependency — and REaddressed it, until he understood. I mean REALLY understood. You need to have a frank talk with your boyfriend — and REtalk. The situation he’s put you in is intolerable; frankly he wants you in a *mental* wheelchair affixed to his. That is not fair to you. You need time apart; lunching with galpals, etc. You have friends and should definitely keep them. I’m not native to this area and have had difficulty establishing friendships (most women my age work and are mothers; I’m childless).

    L #2: I’d simply tell her “That’d be nice, but we can’t afford it.” I hope she won’t become a stinker and rub your faces in her good fortune. :- If she does, bake a good old-fashioned Midwestern (I’m a native to the region) pie and shove it in her face. 🙂

  6. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: This just in from the wacky world of entertainment: “The Wonderful Guy In My Life Who Is Totally Awesome When He’s Not Sucking Out My Soul And Driving Me Crazy And It Will Only Get Worse After We’re Married” has just been renewed for ANOTHER season, while it’s rumored that the show’s creators are in talks with the network to produce the show UNTIL ONE OF THEM DIES. 

    Think about it.

    LW2: My, how quick we are to bash someone for their success. How DARE your sister assume that you might want to take a trip and invite you along, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO SAY “NO” BECAUSE YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT. Unless this is a regular occurrence and your sister truly flaunts her wealth (or you’re so bad off that it’s obvious you can’t afford two sticks to rub together), you’re overreacting and way out of line. “Have a talk with her?” Indeed. It sounds like your sister knows the meaning and intrinsic value of hard work and time spent (she got a scholarship)—so I wouldn’t dismiss her good fortune out of hand as though she bought a winning ticket at a convenience store. Ask, and she just might have some wisdom to share with you on generating your own. And if anything—I wish I had someone in my life with whom I could experience some of life’s nicer offerings, even if it’s vicariously. She may be someone you can depend upon if you need a helping hand one day to “save the farm,” as it were. 

    Unless you happen to be friends with your bank.  

  7. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: This sad situation isn’t going to get better until you revise the rules of engagement. You must have time to yourself to preserve sanity — everyone does. Take him to lunch in a public place with enough noise level to provide privacy for your conversation. Then lay it out. The over-structured togetherness routine that he is demanding is serving only to slowly kill your relationship and it won’t survive unless things change. Give him the new rules. No more yakking on the phone to and from work, except for emergency calls. “Honey, where’s the laundry detergent” does not count. Your breaks at work are for coffee and lunching only, combined with chatting with co-workers, running errands, going to the john, and deep breathing on lovely days outside.  You will have a girl’s night out at least two or three times a month. At home, he is not to stalk you from room to room, and he is to develop some interests that are compatible with his physical limitations that don’t involve you. Given his controlling behavior, I assume you realize marriage would be a disaster. You owe it to him and yourself to get this relationship on an even keel. If that’s not possible, then face up to long-term reality and move out. 

    LW2: Tell your sister she needs to have her brain mucked out if she thinks your family can trot off to a horse auction abroad on a whim. Then give her the horse laugh whenever she comes up with such nonsense in the future.  

  8. avatar BlueeyedSara says:

    LW1: I agree with everyone else that you need to communicate clearly with him and set some boundaries but I do have a suggestion: why not reach out to his former friends and (gently and tactfully) ask them to make time for him in their lives?  Some people pull away simply because they don’t know how to cope with such a drastic change in a friend’s life so you could suggest some activities that he could enjoy and give them guidelines on what to do.  Some people will refuse but some people will be glad to help.  It could take the pressure off you and relieve his loneliness but if in any case, his controlling behavior must be stopped and now for the sake of both of you.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      In my experience (and unfortunately I have a lot), his controlling behavior can only be stopped by one person—him.

      Unless they break up. 

    • avatar JC Dill says:

      I’m pretty sure his former friends have left the friendship for the same reason. 
      LW1’s fiancee needs to change HIS behavior before he can expect his former friends to resume their friendships, and before his fiancee says “goodbye”.  Period. 
      LW1 needs to stop being a doormat, lay down the rules, and then STICK TO THEM. If he can’t back off, LW1 needs to recognize he isn’t the “nice guy” she initially thought he was, he’s a control freak who is going to make her life miserable, not happy, and to get out BEFORE she goes thru with the marriage.

  9. avatar fallinginplace says:

    “To the manure born” – classic Margo, loved it!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Oh come on, Margo—you’re a very successful person and I’m sure you’d take umbrage if anyone tried to suggest that it was merely passed on to you instead of being the result of a lot of hard work. LW1 says nothing to suggest that her sister has lead a life of laziness and bon-bons—and the husband is part of the family business. I’m assuming that their fortunes didn’t miraculously spring forth from the ground, and that someone had to take the time and effort to make it all come together. 

      Being someone with a lot of artistic hopes and dreams, I actually take great comfort in knowing that the only thing that separates me from being Hollywood royalty is that I’ve only begun to travel down the path they already did. Hard work works wonders—sitting back and grousing about someone else’s good fortune and results is just petty. 

      • avatar mayma says:

        Totally agree, David.  Be happy for your sister, LW2!  What does the midwest and who you married and all that peripheral crap have to do with anything?!  She has her life, and you have yours — both apparently chosen deliberately.  Oy, this crap about her forgetting where she came from just because she has succeeded — come ON.  Cut the guilt-tripping, say no if you can’t afford it and own your choices.

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          but there’s a difference between being happy for her, and reacting when she invites you to something you clearly can’t afford for the 15th time.

          after enough of that, you would also be frustrated.

          “Look… i will NEVER be able to split a private jet with you. ever. I make $24,000 a year, you idiot!”

          that’s not “not being happy” … that’s being frustrated by someone who cannot understand that other people exist.

  10. avatar Robert Smith says:

    “to the manure born”  –  good one!

  11. avatar wishuponafallingstar says:

    LW#2: Take things at face value. Maybe she really just wants to do something fun with you, her sister. Tell her you can’t afford it, end of story. Don’t take it as her rubbing her wealth in your face.

  12. avatar Boolie says:

    LW#1:  I may be wrong but it sounds as though the fiance is less controlling than he is scared of being alone.  Either way he needs help and some tough love. This is no way for either of you to live.

    Letter#2:  Margo, two classics!  To the manure born is a hoot, and so suitable!  And I got another good laugh of the comment about the autumn leaves.  I had never heard it before.  Sorry to say I know some people who could have said it in earnest.

  13. avatar sueb1997 says:

    I had a similar experience as LW1 except that my guy was not physically handicapped.  But he was a social hermit by choice (as am I; that was one of the things we had in common in terms of preferred lifestyle) and his home living arrangement was, while exactly as he preferred, somewhat unusual — a very small, self-built cabin, several miles from the nearest town. 

    Although we shared enough views (and unusual ones) to want to be together, he hadn’t, in my view, really made the decision to be willing to truly share his personal living space.  So the whole time I lived there it was a struggle.  I enjoyed the small cabin and didn’t mind the tight quarters, but needed to be treated respectfully if not 100% equally (it was, after all, his property and his personal creation). 

    It turned out that he was less attached to the relationship than he was to his own ways of doing things, which included treating the entire house other than the bathroom or the bed as public space, so that there was essentially no place I could go, indoors, that would result in being left alone to, say, read a book or work on a paperwork project.  My situation was exacerbated by the fact that, on the days I was home (I worked 2-3 days per week), I truly found his projects interesting, and would happily follow him around to watch/participate in whatever homestead project he was working on or hike he was going on.  I did enjoy that, but the end result was, of course, even less private time for me.  I didn’t need much, didn’t want to stop participating in the homestead or leave my part time job, just needed a little time here and there that was not controlled by him.  Couldn’t be done, apparently. 

    This was not a physically abusive man, and mentally he was not, I don’t believe, *consciously* trying to control or dominate me.  He was simply in his own struggle of how to combine his desire for a relationship (and truly, we were more compatible in our worldview and values than either of us is likely to find in anyone else ever) with his very rigid style of “how things should be” inside his own home.  But that struggle on his part got expressed in some pretty passive-aggressive and controlling behavior.

    Anyway, it didn’t work.  We both tried.  The only thing we didn’t try was living apart while continuing the relationship — if that is an option, LW might consider that.  In my case by the time we knew it wouldn’t work to live together, I was burnt out on the repeated failures of trying, and with some other interpersonal issues that affected our relationship.  But if we had tried that earlier, who knows, maybe it would have worked.

  14. avatar julpfeif says:

    LW1. I agree with everyone who says she needs to work out personal space/time and leave if that’s not possible.  If she does decide she has to leave, be prepared for people (even your friends and family) to say, “How awful/selfish you are to leave him in his time of need.” This happened to a friend of mine. She weathered the storm, but it was rough for awhile.

  15. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#1: It always interests me that letters such as these begin with this sort of paragraph:
    “I am engaged to wonderful guy….This arrangement is fine with me.”
    And then the LW goes on to describe just how miserable she is in her relationship. It isn’t just because this particular LW’s fiance is disabled…it’s axiomatic. Mr. Wonderful isn’t wonderful if he demands every moment of your time, wants you to talk to him while your driving (would he like you to end up in a wheel chair…or worse?), demands half your lunch time, and allows you no space when you are at home.
    There is an attitude in today’s society that all disabled people are, by nature of their situation, somehow angelic and deserving of special…by which I mean privileged, solicitous and never critical…treatment. They are still human beings, with personalities and character of their own, and not all will be kind, decent and lovable. Enough said, I think.
    Re: L#2: I was the poor sister for a long time, and took a certain degree of abuse from family because I “never came to see them” (working full time with children and no time to make a 1300 mile drive or money for plane tickets didn’t seem to phase them). Of course, my single sisters and mother hadn’t the time to come and see me because they “hated Texas”. Right. Okay. I was not terribly bothered.
    Then things changed a bit, and now there is this somewhat mistaken impression that we are “rich”. Mmmm…not so much. One eleven and one eight year old car, the first purchased pre-owned, the second very small and very inexpensive, but well maintained. One TV. No boats, jet-ski, ATV, motorcycle, or any other such toys. One membership at the Y. We worked hard to get where we are, there have been setbacks, and we live modestly and quietly. But my family seems to think that everything just fell off of some magical tree into our laps.
    Yet there is this pervasive element of resentment. It is not simply perceived. I have two sons…and my sisters have no children. Somehow, this translates to my uterus being at fault for their failure to conceive. The youngest started trying when she was 42, the other was anorexic, literally, the entire time she was allegedly making the attempt. Neither had any sort of back up plan…not even adoption. I did…had I failed at conception that would have been our other option. We wanted to raise a person, and we planned this as much as anyone possibly can. I have never, ever gloated over this…but there have been times that the mere mention of something one of my sons has done can set off the whole “you’re so lucky, why couldn’t it have been me? I’d be such an awesome mother” thing. My middle sister has never met my younger son, 14 now, and has only seen the oldest, 20, twice. My younger sister has seen the youngest twice, and the elder 4 times. I have not kept them away at all. I’m expected to travel to England (all four of us) or to Illinois to visit because, after all, we’re the ones with the money. 
    I feel for LW2’s sister…she bothered to leave the nest, get an education, find a husband who happened to be well-off…and is now being accused of “having forgotten her roots” because of…what? She’s not living is suburbia or small-town USA? Because she can go to horse auctions in England? Because she isn’t “raising her sons as we were raised”? Because she got a scholarship? Oh, horse manure. There is a name for the attitude LW2 is reflecting, and it is “reverse snobbery”.
    O, heavens, sister married a “rich boy“…and not a home grown, simple, down-to-earth, no-room-for-luxuries, man. Does this mean she won’t be happy? Does this mean she won’t raise her children correctly? Does it mean that LW2 is bitterly jealous because she got that scholarship and went to college and got away from the Home-Town USA and is living a different, but equally valid life? O, hell, no. It sounds more as if the LW does not want her sister to be happy. I can relate to that all to well…from the side of her sister.
    Here is what you say to your sister, Just Plain Old Me: No big conversation, no dramatics, no rant. If you can’t afford a trip to England…say, “We can’t afford a trip like that”. I mean, if you’re truly happy and content with your life, and carry no resentment toward your sister, it shouldn’t be a problem of pride or confidence to just say that you can’t manage a vacation to England to look at horses, should it? Nothing to write to Margo about, really.
    Or is it exactly as it stands, that you wanted Margo to vindicate your feelings of anger and resentment by accusing your sister of being a clueless, spoiled bitch with her nose in the air?

    • avatar Lila says:

      Briana, the Russians have a way of describing this phenomenon:  If your neighbor has a goat (or anything else you don’t), then you don’t wish that you also had a goat; you wish for your neighbor’s goat to die.  There is a significant subset of people who can’t take joy in another’s success, nor do they covet that success.  They just want everyone to be as low and miserable (or even worse off) than they are.
      And boy, money ruins everything, doesn’t it?  Notice how two of the recent lottery winners are choosing to remain anonymous?  I will bet that has as much to do with not wrecking their family relationships and friendships, as much as avoiding badgering by charities.  As soon as someone comes into some money or success, two things happen:  the hands come out asking for things, and the worst motives are attributed to anything the wealthy one does or does not do… basically:  oh, they’re too good for us now. 

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      BB’s insight on LW1 is perfect. 

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        And I’ll be sure to remember Lila’s bon mot as well—I may try to incorporate that into my daily conversation from now on. “Your goat is DEAD? Oh NO—you don’t SAY! What HAPPENED—it was doing so WELL just last WEEK!”


        • avatar Lila says:

          David, hmmm…. you sound like you know entirely too much about what happened to my goat!  Ah, well, nothing for it but to sit around the table, drink vodka and commiserate.
          Quit looking at my vodka bottle.

  16. avatar A R says:

    LW1: Whoa! Sounds like he needs something to do with his time. I assume that if he is able to help around the house, then he must have some control over his hands. Could he take an online class for an advanced degree? Work as a volunteer phone sales/marketing for a non-profit? Work as an online customer service rep for an online business? Point being, he needs something of his own to occupy his mind and to make productive. He’s being micromanaging, and that is not healthy for you or him.

    LW2: I’m not sure why you want to remind your sis where she came from. Honestly, where she came from has zero bearing on where she is now or where you are now. Someone sounds a little  (reluctantly) resentful…..

    • avatar Tulip O'Hare says:

      Word, AR. It sounds like where LW2 and her sister came from is a place full of jealous, disdainful snits who hate anything that’s not just like them and their hometown and resent anyone with different ideas of how or where to live. No wonder the sister fled east. 

      There is NO shame in modest living or modest means. There is ALWAYS shame in acting like you’re better than anyone else because of your means. That goes for rich, poor, and everyone in between.

      But, full disclosure — I’m the person in my family who now gets the “you think you’re better than us” accusations.  🙂

  17. avatar Carrie A says:

    LW#2: Wow, grow up and stop obsessing over your sister’s success. Your jealousy is so obvious in your letter I’m surprised Margo didn’t call you out on it. Your only complaints are that she has a second home that’s a horse farm (the horror!) and she invited you on a trip. Boo-hoo. I have some rich friends who invited me and my husband on an expensive trip once. We were able to save and go, but if not I would not have been hurt by an invitation. The only one trying to rub your sister’s success in your face is you. Deal with your issues now before you become so bitter your sister doesn’t want anything to do with you.

    • avatar boisguilbert says:

      Carrie A, I see no jealousy in what LW#2 has written.  I think she’s sincere, not bitter.  

  18. avatar trish says:

    Frazzled described my life………with a very big exception. I understand why my husband, who is in a similar situation health-wise, wants to talk to me constantly, be at home, be in the same room………….he’s lonely! Have you actually asked him why he wants so much of your time? I did, and that was the answer. My husband is also a wonderful man for whom getting ill caused him to “disappear” to his “friends.” As he has gotten sicker, they have pulled away more. They are uncomfortable watching what is happening to him and don’t understand that my beloved man is still the same person they’ve know since childhood. I’ve invited them over for dinner, for cards, for 10 minutes of their time, but they shun him because they think he’s different now. Who he is inside has only changed because he’s by himself a great deal. Our answer to trying to help this is the Internet. He has made several non-judgemental friends, in his same position, in on-line gaming. It may sound silly, but it’s a common interest, and their avatars allow them to physically do the things their real bodies can do no longer, and so much more! They don’t discuss their various disabilities, they appreciate each other for the mind behind the microphone. It’s been almost a decade since he got sick, and this same group has stayed together, and expanded, through several different games. I know how hard “Frazzled’s” life is. If she can help him find new friends, as I did, their world will get bigger and he will be so much happier. It’s not about control. It’s about being recognized as still being a person.

  19. avatar Nonny Mouse says:

    Agree with all the comments on LW1. You must change the dynamics of the relationship or leave. If he has some connections of his own he may not feel the need to be in constant contact with you. If he won’t reach out to anyone, or accept help reaching out, you should not stay and let him continue this way, it’s destructive to you both.
    LW2; I notice there’s a lot of hostility to the wealthy sister – but did the writer consider asking if her sister was willing to pay for the trip? She just might, and maybe that’s where she was headed with that question. If they have a second home and a thriving business, it might not be out the question for her to pay for a plane ticket and an extra room. Maybe she is still learning how to talk about money and making generous offers without it seeming like charity. Money is a huge taboo, especially if you don’t have any, and maybe she was trying to be generous instead of snooty. It may be more fun to look down your nose at rich people as being snooty, to punish them for having more than us, but that isn’t always going to be the case. Sometimes they may want to share, say, with family.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      LW2: My sense of it was that the wealthy sister wanted poor sister’s family to hop over to the horse auction — “she asked if we wanted to.” This wasn’t one sister inviting another for a spa day, implying that she’d treat.  

  20. avatar Susan G says:

    There seems  an assumption  that everyone with mega-wealth turns into Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell and worthy of supreme derision. #LW2 didn’t describe her sister rubbing her success/wealth in her face.   All LW#2 reported is that the sister hoped she’d accompany her on a trip. Plain Old Me might mull over if there is real grandstanding here, or simply her resentment. 

  21. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr #2, I’m kind of not sure what the hubbub’s about.  She really didn’t give any examples of why she feels her sister’s on “her high horse” and that she forgets where she came from.  I actually got the feeling the LW was making assumptions of her sister’s attitude.  There’s too much left unsaid, and not knowing the true dynamics of their relationship, to make the same assumptions.  Why do we bash people just because they’ve done financially well for themselves?  Jealousy?  My gosh, I’m 48 years old and can’t afford a house living in So. CA.  I live in a cramped apartment, but I’m not really missing much.  I think it would be delightful if someone invited me to a horse auction in England even though I’d have to turn it down for financial reasons.   So what, I’m poor, big deal.  I see this as the sister trying to be inclusive, rather than rubbing LW’s nose in it.  But again, don’t know true dynamics, just trying to look at this a little differently.

  22. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#2 – “How much of a discussion should I have with her.”  I don’t get it.  She’s doing well.  She asked if you want to accompany her on a fun trip.  Maybe there is a lot more you didn’t include but I didn’t read anything here about her being out of bounds.  She can’t assume you cannot afford to take the trip.  She’s nice enough to want to spend time with you.  You are free to say, “Sorry, no, I just can’t afford that.”  Or maybe your response is more along the lines of you can’t stand to spend time with a sister you have so much jealousy for. 
    Have you assumed that when she invited you she meant for you to pay.  Maybe she is offering to cover some or all of the cost?  You will never know unless you respond in a nice way.  Sounds like you are looking for a fight.

    • avatar B.eadle says:

      i agree.  No where in the letter does it say that sis is always asking the letter writer to join them on expensive holidays.  From what we have, this was a one time thing!  Was there any discussion of how expenses would be split.  Maybe if you say…gee, we can’t afford it, sis and her family will offer up airfare or a couple hotel rooms.

      And you know what else…there is NO SHAME in living high on the hog if you have the money to do so.  Sis must have worked hard in school to earn that scholarship.  She and spouse have worked and earned money, why is LW2 bashing them for spending what they’ve earned?  Its those folks that don’t have two nickels to rub together that go out and buy the big house and fancy car anyway that you have to worry about.

      Sounds like you’re petty.


      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I get the feeling that if her sister won the lottery she’d say: “Why, she’s acting like she won the lottery!” 

  23. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Ltr.1: Very sad that wonderful guy is a prisoner if the disease, but you need to stop giving him permission to keep you like a prisoner – now.
    Ltr.2: I see envy. Why can’t you be happy for your sister? Just be open with her and tell her that you can’t afford to travel. She might even treat you to a trip. That is what my sister did a long time ago when she was in a better financial situation than I was. Just because people can afford a nice life style does not necessarily mean that they are living “high on the hog”. They might be simply living within their means. No harm with that…..

  24. avatar wlaccma says:

    I know plenty of people who have MS who work full time.  So strap on a headphone and begin answering calls in a call center or find a work from home job.  He will be plenty happy to not spend every minute with you because he will be tired like everyone else who works.  Please do not marry this man.

  25. avatar Phillip Koons says:

    LW1:  The first thing that jumped out at me was that he’s obviously lonely.  However, you can’t carry the burden of being his sole social contact.  I don’t think he’s trying to control you but I think it’s an affect of him trying to fulfill his own needs.  I’ve heard the same exact arguments from a friend of mine.  She spent all day cleaning and taking care of the children but had a hard time understanding why hubby wasn’t always up for spending their afternoons/nights together.  She needed adult social contact and he was folding under the pressure of being the sole provider of it.  She ended up taking a class or 2 for some new hobbies and made some new friends that way.  I don’t know whether that’s possible with MS (I’ll admit ignorance on it in general) but he needs more social contact and that’s what I feel is really the underlying issue.

  26. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    Since when is the description of the middle-class one that includes ‘no money for luxuries’.  Sounds more like working class to me. 

    • avatar HelliePie says:

      Americans never describe themselves as working class, even though most of us are. Even those of us who think we are middle class are really working class.

  27. avatar dcarpend says:

    I grew up on the East Coast, not rich enough to have horses, but certainly well-to-do — summer camp, vacations, big house, that sort of thing.  My parents were both Ivy League grads, and saw to it we were well-educated.  And I am familiar with the idiotic attitude that somehow less wealthy people from the midwest have better values, more loving families, and a life that is more “real.”  (“I grew up in the *real* world!”  Because apparently it’s not the real world if you grow up with your own bedroom.)
    My family wasn’t perfect, but my parents were always concerned and involved, saw us as individuals, strove to give us what we needed emotionally and educationally even more than materially.  I was close to both my parents, and still am close to both my siblings and their families.  I can honestly say that I am one of the lucky ones who not only loves her family, but likes, enjoys, and *trusts* all of them. 
    I now live in the Midwest, have for decades.  I love where I live, but I haven’t noticed that it’s any more real than the Tri-State Metropolitan Area (NYC region.)  Nor have I noticed that the families here are any closer.  I also haven’t noticed that economic status has anything how close a family is.  Happy and unhappy families exist across the economic spectrum.
    BTW, as I said, I now live in the Midwest, outside a small city.  I am definitely not as wealthy as my parents were.  Does that mean I’ve “forgotten my roots?”

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Regional fallacies. If you live in the South, you must be a fundamentalist Christian, ignorant, inbred redneck. If you live Back East, you must be a Rich Snob. If you live in California or on the West Coast, you’re laid-back, hip, and swingin’. If you live Out West, you’re a cowboy or Hispanic. If you live in Texas, you’re lost forever as a redneck, Tea Partying moran. And if you live in the Midwest, why you’re just the simple, happy, salt-of-the-earth.
      Economic stereotypes: if you’re wealthy, you’re a selfish, useless, heartless, free-wheeling, money-grubbing, ivory-tower living bastard who never worked a day in your life. If you’re poor, you’re either deserving of better because The Establishment has Held You Down…or you’re a lazy, useless, defective chump. If you’re the middle class (which is also the working class…where do some people live?) you can be a suburban soccer mom spending too much for appearance’s sake, or a blue-collar working stiff with who bowls and rinks American beer and is undereducated but honest…come on people. Good grief.
      None of these hold true. I’ve known incredibly wealthy people who worked hard for every penny they have, enjoyed what they had, and were kind and generous to a fault…and others to-the-manor-born who were gentle, compassionate, considerate and also generous…and who raised their kids with better values than many salt-of-the-earth types. I’ve known poor people who worked hard too, and were purely victims of circumstance, and those who’d prefer to ride the purple wage forever, and felt entitled to the best in life. As for the middle, pick any point on the spectrum, and you’ll find someone occupying that place, for better or worse.
      And region doesn’t mean a thing either. Here in Houston, we have a Democratic, lesbian mayor (big deal…she’s a lousy mayor), and the third largest LGBT community in the nation…even though same-sex marriage isn’t legal. The majority of the Tea Partiers came here from other states…California, Illinois (me too), Idaho, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Indiana…you get my drift? I’ve met Southerners who were brilliant and racially unbiased, and Northerners who were pig-ignorant and racist…Easterners who had zero sophistication and didn’t know what the Ivy League was…Midwesterners who were snobs, social elitists and richer than Midas, and Californians who witnessed for Jesus on the beach at Spring Break, and thought drinkers and pot smokers were hell-bound. 
      Most people can’t think individually, they think tribally. Damn shame, isn’t it? In my family, I’ve forgotten my roots because I’m not a liar, I don’t care what anyone thinks, I don’t believe in “gun control” and I do believe in the death penalty, I’m not a misandrist and because…o, the humanity…I live in Texas and have a happy marriage.
      So it goes…
      Poo tee weet…

  28. avatar christineb says:

    I agree with the posters who think the fiancee in LW1 is probably lonely. He needs to get out. Is there somewhere he can volunteer or a group he can join? Depending on the impact of his MS he might try packing boxes for Give2TheTroops, crocheting or knitting for Project Linus, or exercising dogs with the Humane Society (he can get some fresh air while taking them for a “walk”). I’m guessing he is so afraid of losing his only contact to the outside world he’s holding on with all he’s got.

    On the other hand, someone made a good point. If he was not disabled and doing this would you put up with it? There is a possibility his controlling behavior could escalate into something worse. If he refuses to get help or is still controlling after getting out more RUN don’t walk away from this guy. Give him a chance but don’t put yourself in a bad position to do it.

  29. avatar chuck alien says:

    “He insists that I…”

    seems like you’d hit that line in the letter you’re writing and realize…..  oh, right.  I should dump this idiot.

    insists?   people do that? 

    but then, that’s the thing about insistence… it takes people obeying the insister for it to work.

    so….. if you don’t do it, wouldn’t that automatically change it to “He requests that I…”   

    because if you’re not doing what he’s insisting on, then he’s not actually insisting, is he? 


  30. avatar wendykh says:

    Okay I’m just going to ask.

    You are not yet married to this man. Why are you marrying a man to whom you will be largely a caretaker? This is not a real marriage. It’s one thing to stay after a marriage, in sickness and in health and all… but there’s just no reason to do this! If he wants a nursemaid/caregiver he can hire one. I’m sorry but a man that confined to a wheelchair who can’t even work apparently is not capable of being a husband either. And again it’s one thing to deal with that *after* a marriage but why on earth would you *choose* this role? Perhaps that will lead you to figure out why you have yet to tell this control freak where to go.

    FTR I do agree with others who were compassionate and said he’s lonely/insecure. But that doesn’t change he’s acting out entirely inappropriately.  

  31. avatar Jennifer says:

    LW2 – Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure makes things easier. So, your sister made choices and you obviously disagree with them. If she’s repeatedly asking you to do things you can’t afford and being insensitive about it, that’s one thing, but even then it should simply be a simple conversation:
    LW2 to sister: I appreciate you inviting me to things, but expensive things are just not in my budget. It bothers me when you do this.
    Sister to LW2: I’m sorry, I will try to keep your fiances in mind before I invite you to things. 
    It’s really that easy. Alternately, your sister could offer to pay your way if it is that important to her. That’s what I do with my mother. I want her to experience things that she can’t afford and I can. She’s not presumptuous about it, so it works for us. I try to be sensitive to my friends and siblings fiances before I invite them to things, but I’m sure I occasionally misstep. I resent the family members that expect I will pay for every shared meal, every outing simply because I have more money than they do.

  32. avatar P. Cotton says:

    LW#1– The writer’s fiance’ does not have a life of his own now that he is disabled.  At this point, his life is the home, the pets, and whatever life his fiancee leads, so he tries very hard to be a part of that.  He should be encouraged to join support groups, engange in community service, and participate in activities outside the home as his health allows.  While he is busy having a life, she may have hers.

  33. avatar HelliePie says:

    Re LW#2; I think the privileged sister with the horse farm should be a bit more sensitive. It sounds like what the “middle class” sister feels bad about is not so much the money as the missing person–the one her sister used to be.
    In my own experience, it was a close childhood friend who took a different path. We had been as close as sisters, and I, being the weaker personality, followed her to a high school that was suitable for her but not for me, into a relationship that was a disaster, but twhich was influenced by her choice of partner (who “happened” to be my boyfriend’s best friend, etc.). I miss the girl I laughed until I cried with, but she made different decisions, and hers were more remunerative that mine. She became a suburban soccer mom whose kids went to those Ivy League schools; I became a writer. You know what word goes best with writer? Starving. My erstwhile friend seems to me to have morphed into a somewhat affected creature–I know she came from the same streets as I did, and it can be cringe-inducing to communicate with her now. I feel she has become “phony.” Maybe the poor sister objects to something similar in the well-to-do sister’s mannerisms and behaviors. I get it.
    I miss my friend of old, but we all have a right to follow our own paths.
    When we communicate now, which is seldom, I am sure my old friend is as disappointed n me as I am in her. So it goes. None of us is so poor that we can’t afford the consolations of memory.

  34. avatar GG1000 says:

    Sister – you don’t describe your sister doing anything awful – just inviting you along on something you can’t afford. So you say, “I’m sorry but our budget won’t stretch to that; thanks for inviting us though” just like you would to anyone else.