Wife’s obsession ruining family time
Dear Annie: Our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren live in another part of the country, so we are only able to see them a few times a year.
On our most recent visit, my wife asked my daughter where she kept some of the very nice, expensive wedding gifts that had been given to them by friends of ours. My daughter wasn’t sure, pointing out that they have a large house and that the wedding gifts, though nice, are not something they use and that with five young children, she wasn’t sure where they were.
The next thing we know, my wife has disappeared to hunt for the wedding gifts. When I find her, she is unpacking boxes in another part of the house looking for them.
Why that was more important to her than helping with the grandchildren and enjoying time with the family, I don’t know. And I know I would not be happy if anyone, family or not, began looking through boxes stored at my house.
When she didn’t find what she was looking for, I hoped she’d let the matter drop. Instead, the next day, she quizzed my daughter about where she kept some of the family heirlooms that have been given to her over the years.
Like the wedding gifts, the heirlooms are not useful for everyday living, and frankly, it is better for them to be packed away safely rather than being left around where the grandchildren might damage them.
At this second inquisition, my daughter lost her temper. The argument that followed was loud and terrible for everyone in the house.
I still cannot make sense of this. Can you? We were guests in another person’s house, where our help with the grandchildren was needed and our time with them was precious. My wife maintains, however, that she has “a right to see” the wedding gifts and the heirlooms because of her own connection to them.
That doesn’t make sense to me. More importantly, I am worried about my wife’s obsession over them. Could this be a sign of some sort of mental illness? How can I help her? I want to know before our next visit. — Confused By Wife’s Priorities
Dear Confused: Your wife’s behavior is, indeed, strange and inappropriate. Props to you for wanting to help her rather than condemn her.
Your daughter’s possessions — regardless of who gifted them or how much they cost — are hers to use, not use, stow away or trash entirely. It’s really nobody’s business but her own, and it makes perfect sense that she would want to keep them in storage while she has young children running around.
There are a variety of explanations for your wife’s behavior, and not all of them suggest a mental illness. Perhaps the heirlooms have sentimental value or were gifted by a friend or relative of your wife who has since died, or perhaps she fears your daughter doesn’t value these items the way that she once did.
If there is no such explanation, gently suggest to your wife that a therapist might be able to help her cope with her obsessions and focus on what really matters: spending time with her family.
Editor’s note: “How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — 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.