The party’s over

Joey Garcia

Should I end my three-year marriage? I’m nearly 30, and I have outgrown college partying (I don’t drink or smoke), but my husband hasn’t. He is a working professional and a pothead who drinks two or three beers a night. When he is stoned, he bounces off the walls and is absent-minded. I expect more from a 33-year-old man.

Now he wants children. I told him I don’t want to raise my kids around drugs and alcohol. He promises to stop but continues to use. He also has mood swings: particular and controlling or extremely charming and sweet.

We’ve known each other for almost 10 years, but now I realize that the only time we were sober was on campus or while studying. Now that I’m sober, I feel disconnected from him. I tried to toss his stash once last year. He became enraged. I’m fed up and want to release this most stressful part of my life. I feel like I made a terrible mistake by marrying him. Could leaving be the solution?

If he refuses to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, yes. The problem is not that college partying behavior has bled into your lives as young married professionals. The problem is that your husband is an addict who can’t get through his life without numbing himself to reality. It’s also possible that he is suffering from a diagnosable mood disorder and uses beer and pot to self-medicate. It’s time to have a serious conversation with him about the need for sobriety. In the meantime, get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting so you have the internal infrastructure to handle the fallout from living with (and loving) an addict.

My mom was sexually abused by her stepbrother and had a lot of emotionally traumatizing experiences as a child. Now whenever she feels insecure, she tries to control everything about me (I’m 15), so we often fight. How do we fix our relationship?

Begin by realizing that your mom copes with stress (feeling powerless) by targeting the person she has authority over (you) and exercising her ability to limit and restrict your choices and opportunities. She may believe that her behavior is born of love, but, as you know, it is actually the result of unresolved fears of powerlessness from her past. Of course, it inspires rebellion, not affection, from you.

Only she can change her behavior. If you try to change her, you will become what you despise: controlling. So, the only option is to work on yourself. Here’s how: When you notice signs of your mom’s insecurity, check in with yourself and see if you also feel off-balance knowing that a fight often follows her episodes of insecurity. If your defenses are up, it’s harder to deal with your mom’s drama because you’re immersed in your own. Next, gently ask her how she is feeling. Draw her into conversation. Try to listen to her insecurities without trying to fix them. For example, if she had a bad day at work and is worried she may lose her job, invite her to talk about that. This may prevent her from channeling those fears into trying to control your life and future. It also may be helpful to talk to her about her pattern (insecurity, control, fighting) when she is not engaged in it. Use clear examples and offer to help her see when she is shifting toward intense insecurity.

In all of your conversations, take care to talk to your mom as an adult, but not as her parent. That means you are clear, kind and direct, not punitive or taking responsibility for her healing. She needs to do that herself.

Meditation of the week
“What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things,” wrote the anthropologist Margaret Mead. What three actions can you take today to bring integrity to your words and activities?

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