"When My Mother Died, Our Marriage Fell Apart"
"I hate living this way as much as Debbie does," sighed Zach, 35, a college professor. "But I have no idea how to make things better. It feels as though we've been bickering forever, but it's definitely been worse since her mother died.
"Debbie's mother was an exceptional woman who was incredibly warm and welcoming to me. She couldn't have been more different from my own mother, who was a teacher in the small Wisconsin town where I grew up. My father and two older brothers are attorneys. Although my family seldom fought, we never really opened up, either. Even before her mother's condition deteriorated, Debbie spoke to her family every day. Whenever we saw them, there'd be these marathon conversations about everything from personal problems to sports, books, and politics. I felt as if I'd landed on another planet and I loved it. I can't remember our family ever having such candid dialogues. If you had a problem, you were expected to fix it on your own -- a philosophy that has stuck with me.
"I fell in love with Debbie because she's incredibly smart, energetic, and fun. But she's also high-strung and emotional, and the word flexible isn't in her vocabulary. She files grievances away in a 'hurt' bag, pulling out old ones to fan the flames of a current argument, whereas I can fight with someone and 10 minutes later all is forgotten. She'll berate me for playing with our daughter instead of picking up Polly Pocket paraphernalia. Then she'll dredge up something I said two years ago that I don't even remember. How can I respond?"