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DEAR HARRIETTE: A longtime friend came to visit me and my family this summer. We had a nice visit. As I was driving my friend home at the end of his visit, he commented in a by-the-way fashion on what he observed about my interactions with my wife. She and I have been in a simmering war of words for a long time now, and he clocked it. He didn’t pass judgment. He just said he hoped we could get past it. He said we have been together so long that it would be sad if we couldn’t move beyond what seemed to be petty bickering. That was hard to hear, even though I know it’s true. I am wondering if I should tell my wife. I fear that she may never want to invite him over again because she may feel it was a violation for him to say anything, but he was on the mark with our issues. Do I risk that relationship in order to let my wife know that other people see what’s happening with us? I want to save our marriage, but we haven’t figured out how to deal with our issues at all. — Power of Observation
DEAR POWER OF OBSERVATION: Consider your friend’s visit a gift. Yes, tell your wife what he observed. Make sure you let her know that he was not trying to judge you two. Instead, it seemed like he genuinely cares about you both as a couple and wants you to be happy. Ask her how she has been feeling about the way you communicate. Tell her your thoughts. Do your best to share your ideas without anger or emotion. Find out if she would be willing to have a referee to help you talk through your problems. If so, find a therapist and begin the important work of mending your relationship.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have very different views about parenting. Our three children are between college and adulthood. My husband believes we should leave them alone and let them live their lives. I am very hands-on. I talk to them almost every day. I don’t meddle in their activities. I just check in and share some little anecdote about our lives. I do not badger them if they don’t check in, but I like being in touch. My husband complains that I am not giving them space to be independent. What do you think? — Adult Parenting
DEAR ADULT PARENTING: Pay attention to your children. If you stopped reaching out every day, what would happen? Test it out to discover what the natural rhythm of communication becomes when you are not the initiator. Chances are, each of your children would establish their own pace with you that will likely be more engaged than your husband is with them but perhaps less structured than what you do now. Allow your rhythm to set itself over time, and don’t disparage your husband for his way of engaging with them. You are all different people. Striking a balance regarding communication as adults is the next phase of your lives together. Watch and respond accordingly.