DEAR JOHN: How do I get my husband to quit assuming he knows how I feel? If I sigh, he assumes I'm upset with him. When I tell him I'm not, he insists that I tell him the truth. Of course, then I do get upset. Believe it or not, he does this for everything I say or do. I can't even clear my throat without him thinking something is wrong! How do I break him of this habit?
— Change Needed, in Seattle, Wash.
DEAR CHANGE NEEDED: For some reason, you or someone else in his past conditioned him to “read” certain gestures as a negative indication of his behavior. The next time this happens, don't get angry with him. Instead, reassure him that everything is fine with you.
Then, an hour or so later, ask him if you can have an open discussion of how you wish to indicate to him any future concerns you might have. This indication might be a phrase such as, “Honey, when you have a moment, we have something we need to discuss.” Ask him to give you the same courtesy. In this manner, no word, gesture or tone can ever be misconstrued. All emotional sleight-of-hand can be played, because all cards will be on the table for everyone to see.
DEAR JOHN: I have fallen in love with a beautiful, healthy, lively, intelligent woman who wants to marry me. She has a nice young son, and I think we would make a happy family. I am suffering from several doubts, however, because her situation causes her to need to marry. She is a poor Ukrainian without possibilities for a decent life.
My fear is that I will bring them here and then she would seek a divorce soon after — despite my best intentions and efforts. The emotional heartbreak of being “used” would be worse than the lifetime of support I would have to give them, even after the divorce. I know deep down that this is not her intention. She means well, but I know, too, that she will change dramatically when she comes here and the new woman I helped to create might no longer love me as much as she does now.