Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Take time for husband's hug, without resentment: It's a gift
Burned out: I adore my husband, and our two young children, but I am at a loss as to how to see my husband's love and affection as anything other than yet another demand for my time and energy. He is loving, affectionate, kind and passionate, but when he comes to give me a hug or anything along those lines (whether it's JUST a hug, or a hopeful lead-in to something else), I think, "Go the hell away and take care of yourself." What is wrong with me? My head knows he is fabulous in every way.
Carolyn: There might not be anything "wrong" that you would need a capable therapist to fix, but given the toxicity of your thoughts and the very real risk you'll actually express one of them, I urge you to find a safe place to air them and figure them out.
You may well be just an over-tired, over-touched parent, and a couple of sessions will be enough to address that. Or, you might be feeling angry about something else, rationalizing it away, and quietly getting more steamed by the day. Or, you're attracted to someone else, or just not your spouse anymore. These are things to spend time on, so that you can address the problem without blowing up an entire section of an otherwise happy life.
Re: Huggy husbands
Anonymous: When I'm busy (cooking, getting organized for the day) or just acting busy (puttering around the house), my husband will often come up and give me a hug. My first instinct is nearly always squirmy annoyance.
But I try, instead, to close my eyes, take a breath and a moment, and really hug back. To think about it not as something he wants that he's taking from me, but a gift that he's giving me — that, if repeatedly rejected, he'll probably STOP giving.
He's an affectionate person by nature; I could go days without physical contact. So I'm trying to be better about taking his gestures to heart.
I've come to realize that a 10-second hug not only doesn't derail everything else I was doing; it can be a trigger to think about whether what I was doing really was all that important.
Carolyn: I love this. I want to hug it at the worst possible time. Thank you.
Burned out: Thanks. I am going to ask for a counseling referral (my letter sounded bad even to me, when I saw it). And I'm going to go give my husband a hug.
Part of the problem is that I beat myself up for feeling this way, which makes it seem like yet one more way I'm coming up short in my life that I need to improve on. But Anonymous is right: It's a gift. I think that will help.
Carolyn: I also think it's quite common to feel there's always something you're doing wrong. If it helps, try picking a few things that demand your best effort, and a few to let slide. Getting everything "right" will be meaningless if the effort leaves you brittle and stressed.
Which is not to say that, oh great, you've got one more thing to improve on — I swear. It's a Valentine to the idea of coming up short.
Q: The daughter of a dear friend planned a destination wedding shortly after her engagement a year ago. She chose a cruise, with the wedding on an island we would be visiting on the cruise.
My husband and I were reluctant to go for several reasons. We both had to take a week of vacation and go on a cruise in which we have no interest. We attempted polite refusals to the invitation, but finally caved in and agreed to go.
Two weeks ago, the bride canceled the wedding. We have trip insurance, but it will not cover this type of cancellation -- the wedding was called off only three weeks in advance, so we get nothing back if we decide not to go.
We are now stuck with a cruise that we do not want because of the canceled wedding. My husband refuses to go and has withdrawn his request for time off from work. I will not go without him.
My husband thinks that the bride and her family should compensate guests who cannot get any money back. Our friends heavily pressured us to go and threatened to end the friendship if we did not. We are trying to be gracious, but we have paid a significant amount of money to attend this destination wedding. Do you have any advice for us?
A: Lots: Do not commit to major expenses of time and money for optional things you do not want to do.
Do not consider people friends if they threaten to break off the friendship if you do not cave in to their wishes.
Stop debating about asking these people for compensation. Miss Manners assures you that their original lack of regard for your circumstances indicates that they are not going to worry about, much less pay for, the losses incurred by you and probably dozens of others.
Q: A girl in our office just lost her mother to cancer, and her co-workers were going to give her a floral expression of sympathy.
But now two friends of hers who are part of the group want to use the money to buy her a gift certificate for a mani-pedi. I consider this inappropriate since a mani-pedi is more of a personal gift, and the rest of us are co-workers and not friends of the girl.
A: So you understandably do not want to focus your attention on her fingers and toes. However, there is another reason that this is a dreadful idea.
Her friends' obvious purpose is to take her mind off her loss by pampering her. However well they may think they know her, they have not known her under these particular circumstances. Miss Manners would go so far as to say that they do not know much about bereavement.
They may be surprised if they find her focused on her mother, and her loss, rather than on her toes. It may be truly of more comfort to receive a dignified tribute to her mother than to have others assume that she is more interested in prettifying herself.
In any case, flowers are the properly solemn expression of sympathy. If her friends want to treat her, they should do it on their own when she seems to feel up to it.