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Ask Ellie: Don't let husband's habits stop you from enjoying life

Barring serious illness in adults who are in their 60s, life can be physically active and socially outgoing. It’s up to you, no one else.
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Advice columnist Ellie Tesher.

Dear Ellie: I don’t know if I’m having an identity crisis, or if I’m just lonely, or if it’s my husband who’s changed.

We retired four years ago; I’m 60, he’s 64, and we’ve been married over 40 years. We don’t have a lot of friends that we see anymore. We spend our summers on a remote island in Canada, and during the winter months, we live in our home in Florida.

My husband doesn’t want to do anything but sit and drink beer. He won’t go out for dinner or sightseeing. Nothing. We don’t see anyone but the neighbour.

After three months in Florida, I start to get so bored and depressed that I just want to run away.

I’ve had some health issues that forced me to quit smoking and drinking, so my husband and I are not the drinking buddies we used to be.

I don’t know if this is my problem or his.

Going Crazy in Florida

This situation isn’t just about your husband, but it’s creating a problem for both of you. What you feel, whether from loneliness or near depression, comes from relying on him for your entertainment to the point of neglecting any personal goals you may have, or can still develop, on your own. Also, at 60, you don’t need him to make friends.

Retired at 60, with a cottage and a Florida home in winter, you describe loneliness as something only he needs to change.

Meanwhile, you’re both early-60s with opportunities for healthy outdoor activities in summer, plus access to all the recreation that Florida offers from book clubs to pickleball, swimming pools, and beach walks, and neighbours eager for get-togethers.

It’s lucky that you’ve had to quit smoking and drinking. No longer being “drinking buddies” can improve your socialization with others. Once your husband sees how much healthier and more active you are, he may catch up… or not. But your desire to “run away” is a self-defeating excuse for blaming him only.

Reader’s Commentary Regarding a mother who’s obsessed with her children’s homework (Nov. 9):

“As a retired teacher I’m sharing a secret that only teachers know about homework: Teachers fear disorder. Our goal from day one is to create a classroom of routine order. That makes us feel secure.

“Homework is one way teachers can create order: They’ll teach for the first 2/3 of class time. Then they’ll assign work based on that lesson.

“They assign just enough work to occupy students for the remainder of class. Some will finish the assigned work, most will hope to, but won’t be able to.

“The students know if they don’t get it done in class, it’ll have to be finished as ‘homework.’ The students’ attempt to finish all the work creates quiet and task-committed students.

“The only reason for assigned work was to maintain an orderly in-control classroom for the last one-third of the class’s time.

“But now the teacher has to check the homework the next day, and possibly change marks. The teacher might even have it turned in, which is more work for the teacher, who may have to phone home if the homework isn’t done consistently, and do this to legitimize creating the homework.

“The teacher’s worst fear is students being out of control after the lesson has been taught.

“So, tell mom this teachers’ secret, and let her relax.”

FEEDBACK A reader’s concerns over a father’s dilemma regarding his daughter’s wedding (Oct. 21):

The father had written about the new boyfriend: “He bullied me and sent threatening texts.”

Reader — “The father has genuine concern regarding his safety. I question the maturity and conscience of the daughter who’s placing her father in a dangerous situation. Or, is she taking advantage of his generosity?

“The father had told his daughter that no one has ever treated him worse than his ex-wife’s boyfriend. ‘I’ve given my ‘princess’ everything she ever wanted. Some people say you must do anything a bride wants. Should I just go and shut up?’ ”

After years of raising “a princess,” the die is cast. She’ll likely not prioritize her father’s discomfort. Given the mother’s boyfriend’s nastiness, both the bride and mom may regret their choices.

The father should attend the ceremony and then, at an after-party, just enjoy his close friends and family.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Barring serious illness and/or long-time addictions in adults who are in their 60s, life can be physically active and socially outgoing. It’s up to you, no one else.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca or lisi@thestar.ca