Ben Claassen III (For Express)
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Q. You’ve written a lot about controlling behavior and I wonder how neatnik-vs.-slob issues fit in. I am minimalist-ish and like things organized, which my wife has known since we met. I work mainly from home and need an environment that keeps me mentally clear (and I do most of the cleaning). When my wife comes home, it’s a tornado. I am trying so hard to help her build habits of putting her stuff away when she comes home, because it will save us both so much time, and that is the type of home I want to live in. She has started to resent this and has even labeled me “controlling” because I tell her how much I need to have an uncluttered environment and how I need her help.
It’s unclear what has changed over time — your standards, her resentment or her clutter habits — but in any case, communication and understanding are at issue here. It may seem like overkill to have a few sessions with a marriage therapist for this, but once resentment and “controlling” accusations enter the equation, it needs to be taken seriously. The path forward involves finding a middle ground that has the least sacrifice for the biggest positive effect in terms of both partners’ comfort and happiness. It may involve an agreed-upon two-minute ritual once she walks in the door, a nightly joint cleanup or one room of the house being embargoed from clutter — whatever it is, you need help generating solutions together rather than accusations.
Will she ever feel any better?
Q. I don’t know how to help my teenage daughter, who, while not depressed in the classic sense, constantly worries about her health. She has had several “scares” (in her own mind, at least) where she is certain she has a serious illness, and when my husband and I tried to be supportive by getting her fullychecked out, that only made her anxiety worse (and the tests checked out fine). Her peers are starting to call her a hypochondriac, so she has stopped talking to them about her feelings, which I think is making her feel worse because her peers were her reality check and now she keeps everything bottled up until she unleashes on us. I know she probably needs help but I almost feel that will make her anxiety even worse.
Yes, it may feel like her anxiety gets a little worse initially. (For some, it is more comfortable to blame a physical diagnosis than reckon with how debilitating anxiety itself can be.) But help helps, eventually. There’s no advantage in waiting. At the very least, she could use some better coping mechanisms and anxiety-reduction techniques. Or this could be full-fledged illness anxiety disorder that needs more intensive treatment. Or it could be anything in between. Help her understand that she deserves to feel better, and that there are solid tools for managing anxiety that will have noticeable effects on her mental and physical well-being. Your best bet? A cognitive behavioral specialist who works with mindfulness and physical symptomology.