Dear Amy: My wife is afraid to touch me since the pandemic started.
I even took the COVID test and the antibodies test to reassure her. I have tested negative both times. And yet my wife maintains — no hugging and (of course) no sex.
Is this normal?
— Lonely Husband
Dear Lonely: Are you sure this is about COVID? I ask because, just as the pandemic has turned all of our lives upside down, it has also offered a rationale for simply refusing to do things you don’t want to do.
If you and your wife have (basically) formed a “germ pod” together with both of you in the same household and maintaining sound hygiene, both limiting outside interaction, and both wearing masks and social distancing while you are out, then I would say that her behavior is NOT normal. It isn’t rational, anyway. The idea is to follow CDC guidelines (and common sense) to maintain a safe household and to minimize any chance of the virus entering your orbit.
The pandemic has thrown most people somewhat off course. For some people, the pandemic has triggered extreme anxieties and obsessions. Fortunately, therapeutic help is readily available by phone or video chat. There are many ways to connect for help; you can check psychologytoday.com/us/therapists for a helpful list of therapists, categorized by location and specialties.
I think it is also obvious — and necessary — for you to do some self-reflection; might there be a reason (or reasons) other than the pandemic for your wife to keep her distance?
Dear Amy: I love my two nieces. I lavished them with attention during their childhood. My sister (their mother), passed away and I kept in touch by attending graduations, visiting them in their relocated cities, and paying for entertainment and meals when we were together.
My nieces are now adults (late-20s/early 30s) and I continued to stay in touch, however, they have made no effort to reciprocate. They never return phone calls, visit, send holiday greetings, etc.
In fact, when I advised one niece that I was hurt that she didn’t return my call (after she said “she’d call me back later”), she explained that younger people just say that and it doesn’t really mean that they’ll call later.
Additionally, she suggested that I should contact her in advance so she could “block out some time to talk.” It seemed I had interrupted her important television viewing. This same niece had a graphic design business. I put in an order, but never received my order because she was “too busy” fulfilling others’ orders and she said she “assumed” I would understand.
I have determined that I will no longer put myself out for them. My family members tell me that as the older member of the family, I should look past their behavior. Additionally, they say that young people just don’t want to be with older family members.
— Agonized Aunt
Dear Aunt: Yes, it is time for you to back away a little bit.
It is pretty typical for adults at this stage of life to be wrapped up in building their own lives, seeing the needs of others as distractions rather than invitations to connect.
Many people in your nieces’ age group seem to treat talking on the phone as an unwelcome intrusion. Millennials have told me that they sometimes have a kneejerk reaction when they see a call coming in, thinking it is actually rude of people to call them, when they really should send a text. Nobody leaves messages, and voice mail messages are seldom returned.
This does not excuse your nieces’ rudeness toward you.
One way to handle this would be to occasionally text them to say, “Hey, I was thinking about you today; I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing.”
I don’t believe that young people as a group “don’t want to be with” older people, but no one likes to be — or feel — pressured.
If you give them more space, they may instinctively draw a little closer to you over time. Give less, and they may give more. They may not, but you won’t be so resentful.
Dear Amy: “Frustrated” said her husband’s underarms had become “stinky.” She wanted him to use deodorant. I couldn’t believe that you agreed with her.
Deodorant should not be necessary if your body is healthy. I hope you don’t use it.
Dear Healthy: This really is not about deodorant, but about a spouse talking to her husband about his body odor.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.