"His Elderly Parents Are Too Demanding!"
Her Turn, continued
"My own childhood was very happy. I grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis, the third child of a homemaker and pharmaceutical executive. Mom and Dad had, and still have, an extremely loving relationship and my brothers and I are very close to them. I talk to my parents every day and see them about six times a year; fortunately, they're healthy and financially secure.
"After I graduated from college, I moved to Boston, became a paralegal, and married Bob, an investment banker. We bought a house in the suburbs and were talking about having children when tragedy struck: Driving home from work one night, Bob was hit by a drunken driver and killed instantly. I was left a widow at 34, with my world turned upside down. Consumed by grief and craving a change of scenery, I moved back to the city.
"About a year later I spotted Don in the fitness center of my apartment building. He was tall and handsome, with a sculpted physique and piercing blue eyes. I approached him in the free-weights area, and before long we were laughing and swapping life stories. At 41, he was a divorced dad of an 8-year-old son, Adam, and had recently moved into the building. I looked forward to chatting with him in the fitness center, but he didn't ask for my number, and I was too shy to give it to him.
"One evening about a month after we met, Don knocked on my door and asked if I'd watch Adam while he ran out to pick up a pizza. Adam introduced me to his stuffed animals, and when Don returned with dinner, he held them up and made goofy noises, charming both Adam and me. I accepted Don's invitation to stay for pizza, and when I left his apartment a few hours later, he asked me to dinner. Midway through that first date, Don stared into my eyes and said, 'I'm going to marry you.' I just laughed, assuming he'd had a little too much wine. But our chemistry was undeniable; within weeks, we were deeply in love.
"We got married 10 months after we met. Our newlywed years were bliss. We bought a house in the suburbs to be closer to Adam, I enjoyed my paralegal job and Don's business was thriving. We were thrilled when three years later, at 39, I became pregnant with Carrie and again when Zack came along two years later.
"Don was an involved father when Carrie was a baby, but unfortunately our son's arrival coincided with his dad's stroke and the downturn in his business. Since his stroke, Tony has undergone multiple surgeries and months of rehabilitation. Don has been at his side every single day. Ann quit her job to care for him, with help from a home healthcare aide that Don pays for. The stress is intolerable for her, too, so she calls Don at all hours for emotional support. I know both Tony and Ann feel bad about how much they lean on Don, but that doesn't stop them from doing it.
"When he's not tending to his parents, Don is working late trying to get his business back on track. When he is home, he unwinds by watching TV. If I ask for help, he'll say he's too tired or that 'the kids go to sleep better for you than they do for me.' Well, that's because he's a terrible disciplinarian, and the kids take advantage of that. He'll play with them until they get hyper, then scream at them for not listening. That makes them cry and cling to me; and I yell at Don for raising his voice. Sometimes he'll say, 'I'm too old to have little kids,' which just breaks my heart. The tension in our house is unbearable, and the kids pick up on it and fight constantly. Adam, my 17-year-old stepson, doesn't come over as often as he used to, and when he's here he's sullen. Don says I pick on him; well, if trying to engage Adam in conversation is 'picking on him,' then I plead guilty.
"I do sympathize with how overwhelmed Don feels, but he brings some of that pressure on himself. He can be a good son without being on call to his parents 24-7. If he'd only delegate some responsibilities to his sisters, he could focus on rebuilding his company and spending more time with us. I miss the funny, warm, and affectionate man I fell in love with -- and I want him back!
"Last week, as I was paying our mortgage, I noticed our checking account was short. I confronted Don, who insisted I'd made an error. But after I pressed him, he admitted he'd given several thousand dollars to his parents. That was the last straw. 'I won't let you continue to deceive me, put our financial future at risk and keep our family life on the back burner,' I told him. 'I'm filing for divorce.'"