Health

My wife becomes an anxious monster preparing for vacation. Why can’t she just chill out?

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Do you have a question about care and feeding? Submit it here.

Dear care and feeding,

My wife becomes downright intolerable as every holiday, vacation, or special event approaches. It has gotten worse over the last few years, and in the days leading up to our beach vacation, his anxiety, stress, and anger put me on edge. It makes me dread traveling all together, even though, in its defense, the trip itself usually goes well. But why do we spend money to be unhappy? The packing, planning, and logistics of the trip are just a nightmare filled with tears, threats, and fights. I do everything I can (even if it’s usually done “incorrectly” and redone by my wife). My kids and I all have to walk on eggshells with my wife these days. She’s becoming a bully and I’m totally fed up.

—Traveler Blues

Dear traveler,

Have you confronted your wife about her behavior before trips and major events? She may not know how much her own struggles with these times are affecting you. Let her know that while you love traveling with her, the time leading up to your trip can be absolutely miserable. Recognize that she too is struggling during these times and that it is time for things to improve. Ask her to share what makes her so anxious and stressed about big events and how you can help alleviate this problem. When it comes to planning and logistics, offer to take on a larger role and ask them to be patient with you about your ability to perform up to their standards; ask her to guide you so that you can do things as close to the way she would, but ask her to consider that it might be better to allow yourself to handle things in a way that doesn’t ‘s not exactly how she would do it, rather than doing it. all herself and be unhappy. Moms/wives tend to take on a disproportionate amount of responsibility when it comes to family events, so taking certain things off your wife’s plate can go a long way in reducing her stress.

If shifting some of the responsibility for these events doesn’t improve the situation, you may want to suggest that your wife talk to a therapist about how she is feeling. It’s one thing to be anxious before a trip, but it shouldn’t get to the point where she takes it out on her family. Offer to go with her if she’s nervous or hesitant, and let her know you want to make things easier for everyone.

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Submit your questions to Care and Feeding here. It’s anonymous! (Questions may be edited for publication.)

Dear care and feeding,

I recently asked my sister-in-law not to attend my daughter’s dance recital, and now my husband’s family is angry with me. My husband and sister-in-law have always been close, but have had a tumultuous relationship in the last year. My husband expressed his feelings to his sister and she did not receive them well. After a year of feeling like I was caught in the middle, I asked my sister-in-law for a break from communication while I processed my feelings and anxieties in therapy. For the first time in over a year, I felt significantly less anxious and miserable while I took this communication break.

Then, the day before my daughter’s recital, my sister-in-law messaged me saying she would be attending the recital and that I should be a bigger person and let her support my daughter. The message irritated me for various reasons, but also triggered my old anxieties. I responded that I did not want her to attend because I did not want to spend my daughter’s recital in a state of anxiety, and her presence would diminish my enjoyment of the day (my husband also shared my feelings). She responded to me angrily and called my in-laws to tell them that I was keeping her away from her niece. Now my in-laws are also angry with me. I’m tired of being in the middle and I also feel like I have the right to enjoy major events in my daughter’s life without being told I’m immature by asking someone one not to attend. How can I continue to find the peace I felt while I was out of communication with my sister-in-law and stop feeling like the bad guy in my husband’s family?

— Anxious and mean

Dear Anxious,

I wish you would have shared a little more, like some information about the “feelings” your husband expressed to his sister. Regardless, you have every right to want your daughter’s big events to be a safe space for you, free of people who cause you stress or anxiety. If your in-laws want to be mad about it, there’s not really anything you can do other than acknowledge how they feel while maintaining that you’re operating in your own self-interest. Your SIL has the right to feel how she feels about this, but it’s not her right to tell you she’s running anyway.

However, I think you should think about your daughter’s relationship with her aunt. Even if your husband and his sister disagree, that doesn’t mean his relationship with his niece should end. What does your daughter think of her aunt? Are they close? If this is the case, it is especially important that you respect this, even as you prioritize your own mental health. Think about ways they can stay connected without you having to facilitate or include your SIL in events where you’d rather not have them there; maybe her aunt could come pick her up and spend the day with her sometime. They can also talk to each other on the phone and write letters to each other. Unless your SIL has done something horrible that makes you feel like she should no longer have access to your child, it’s best for you both to help maintain their bond.

Unfortunately, there is no way to necessarily change how your in-laws feel about you in this situation. You can talk openly with them about the issues you’re having with their daughter and explain why you feel better when the two of you stay apart.
But it’s still possible, probably even, that they’ll take your side and feel like you’re being unfair. If you are confident that you are handling things with your SIL in the best way possible, try not to worry about how your in-laws react to this. You do what’s right for you and that’s what matters.

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Dear care and feeding,

My mother has recently gotten into Reiki and Pranic Healing, where she (and others) have to pay to study under these “doctors” to get certificates to become spiritual healers. Should I be worried? It all started with her interest in crystals and meditation classes after she broke up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend who had been verbally abusive at times. Because it seemed to help keep him busy, I didn’t really pay it much attention and considered it a hobby akin to astrology. Likewise, despite her intense interest in this pseudoscience, she remains very supportive of modern medicines and still insists on getting vaccinated and going to a doctor or hospital when necessary. The price of these online courses is not too exorbitant and she seems to manage her finances well in retirement. However, she says that the people she met also urged her to become a “professional” spiritual healer, which worries me greatly. What do you think I should do here?

—I thought crystals were harmless

Dear Crystals,

Many people use Reiki, pranic healing, and other energy-focused practices as a tool to treat illness, relax, and/or live better. I don’t think you have any reason to worry about your mother at this point; you say she doesn’t spend an exorbitant amount of money on her classes nor has she abandoned “mainstream” medicine. Your mother may find great fulfillment in practicing these healing methods, and she may actually choose to pursue a career as a healer. There’s no shortage of people who would be interested in these services, even if they seem too weird or too hippie for your tastes. I think you should encourage your mother while keeping an eye out for signs that she may have gone too far, like if she suddenly rejects modern medicine, or if she begins to isolate herself from the people in her life who do not share his interest in spiritual healing.

Dear care and feeding,

A month ago, I lost my mother unexpectedly and my sister was diagnosed with a serious illness. Things in my marriage and my finances are not going well, and I feel very sad and alone. I try to contain it, but I cry a lot. I’m working on a long-term plan to be able to afford a divorce, but right now I’m grieving and trying to tread water. My husband and I both work opposite shifts, so when we parent, we mostly do it solo. Our children are 3 and 18 months old, so they are both exhibiting normal developmental behavior, but they are good children. Last week I heard “Mom, you’re too loud, I’m trying to watch Bluey” and “Stop crying, I’m hungry!” » There were also major tantrums in response to my tears. This makes me cry harder. I know they’re just babies, but it hurts, and I’m afraid I’ll take it out on my kids when they say things like that. I’m on every waiting list for every therapist who takes my terrible insurance, and I’m doing everything I can. I have a college degree, but I still can’t find a better job and my husband doesn’t care. Her family isn’t local or involved at all and mine is just my sister now. What can I do to keep my children safe? How can I get out of this?

—At my limit

Dear to my limit,

First of all, you must…

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