Originally published Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 06:05a.m.
Dear Annie: My husband of nearly 50 years recently retired from a long and successful career as a litigator. He loved his work very much and rarely lost a case. In the past few years, I have seen a dramatic decrease in both his health and his happiness. He always seems ready for a fight — with a neighbor, a family member or just a server at a restaurant. This unnecessary stress that he is putting on himself is making both of our lives miserable. When I try to talk to him about it, he gives me a winning argument as to why he is right and everyone else is wrong. Last week, he got himself so worked up that he began to have heart palpitations. We had to go to the ER. The doctors did a full panel work-up on him and concluded that he is physically in great shape and that this is probably the result of stress. How is it possible that my husband is more stressed out in retirement than he was when he was working full time? I wish that we could be having more fun together, but he never allows himself to because he is always sweating all the small things. — Retirement Did Not Do a Body Good
Dear RDNDABG: Some people find work to be relaxing, and it sounds as though your husband is one of those people. Let’s hope this small health scare will give you an opening to have an honest conversation with him. Start by telling him how much you love him, adding that you’re so excited to spend more time together. Be honest and direct with your observations about his anger toward what sounds like everyone. Anytime you enter a new phase in life, it can be very jarring. The key is to encourage him to find the right balance. He might work part time or volunteer to do some pro bono work. If his anger at everything were to persist, he really would become a candidate for a heart attack, so counseling should be seriously considered.
Dear Annie: I just read the letter from “My Sad Story.” I agree that therapy might be very beneficial to her, even to bring about a better relationship with her sister, who may have traumatic memories of her own that she is dealing with differently. But you didn’t touch on what she said in the last sentence of her letter. She said, “A little kindness, a warm gesture or even a smile might go a long way toward making an unhappy person’s day.” She is so right. Those things really can make all the difference. But is she doing this herself when she meets people or is with relatives or friends? Or does she wait for others to make the first move? She says she presents a normal face to the world — but sometimes what others see may not be the face she thinks she is showing. If she appears grim or gloomy, people may assume that she isn’t very friendly. If my suspicion is right and she does wait for others to make the first move, she should start reaching out to others with a smile, a warm gesture or a little kindness. She might suddenly see a change in the way people respond to her. — Give Smiles and Get Smiles
Dear Give Smiles and Get Smiles: I’m printing your letter because you make a great point. Smile on.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — 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.