Dear Annie: Personality shift after husband’s retirement
Dear Annie: Recently, my father-in-law retired. This has made my mother-in-law a different, not-so-kind person. She has always confided in me her worries about many different subjects, and I have always been honest but considerate of her very touchy emotions. However, since my father-in-law’s retirement, she has been bitter, cranky and mean. She had always been the one to take care of the home situation and its needs, but she became homebound a few years ago for health reasons. After his retirement, my father-in-law took over many duties. In short, she seems upset, acting as if he is an impostor in her home.
She has asked him to leave the house at times but then becomes upset when he is not home. He sometimes goes to his local VFW post, where he is accepted and seems happy. But she doesn’t seem happy for him. She has asked him to do certain things around the house but is easily upset if he doesn’t get around to them immediately.
This is not like them. They are typically free-spirited people, kind and loving, with big hearts. I feel sad about her behavior. She has even been talking about a separation. I also feel she has been pushing us and the grandkids away slowly but surely. My biggest issue came after I recently called her out on the things she has been saying about her husband. Our conversation went well, but then she called me and yelled, saying I had called them bad grandparents, which I would never do, and hung up on me.
This doesn’t seem fair. Both are great people, but her change is not good. Now I don’t know what to say or do. We have spoken every day via phone for six years. This new situation has broken my heart. Where does it go from here? I feel that she lied when she said I could speak freely and then changed my words to hurt me. I said what I did out of love. -- Loving In-Law
Dear Loving In-Law: You sound like a wonderful daughter-in-law who is dealing with a changing personality that you have no power to control. It is not unusual for wives to find the adjustment difficult after their husbands retire and stay home most of the time. But it sounds as if your mother-in-law could use professional help, especially if her sudden meanness is so out of character. It could be depression or any number of serious ailments that only a professional could diagnose and help her deal with. Speak with your husband and father-in-law about seeking help for her or possibly for both of them together.
In the meanwhile, continue your daily phone conversations and put an emphasis on finding good things to say about her and her husband. Over time, she will be grateful to you for helping her to feel better. She’ll know that you cared enough to have an honest conversation with her about your concern for her well-being.
Dear Annie: When I was recently proofing the next day’s paper, I read “Husband’s a Hoarder,” and I want to give you some appreciation. I help facilitate an addiction recovery course. I’m married, so of course I read books and articles on improving one’s marriage. I am pleased to see, in this age of misinformation, that so much of your advice is really good! In fact, I’ve saved all of it, and it’s stacked up on every surface imaginable in our bedroom. Ha-ha-ha-ha... Ahem. -- Editor
Dear Editor: Thank you for the kind words. Ha-ha-ha indeed. I’ll keep an eye out for a letter from your spouse.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.