Ask Ann Cannon: My aging mother needs help, but my husband is indifferent

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • My elderly mother has recently had some health issues and is now in a skilled nursing center. I spend time there helping her as my schedule allows. My husband never asks about how she is doing or offers to go for a short visit. Their relationship has been OK. My mother has been demanding from time to time, but he has always been a big help. How do I not let this affect my relationship with my husband as well as with my mother?

Feeling Torn at Both Ends

Dear Feeling Torn • Ugh. You’re in a tough place. I’m sorry.

The quick answer here is this: Tell your husband you’d like him to ask after your mother and to visit her occasionally. As frustrating as it is, sometimes we just have to straight up tell the people in our lives what we need and want. After all, they can’t read our mind. (And even if they could, they might not want to.) In my experience, expressing your desires with kindness works better in the long run than lashing out angrily — even if you have to say your piece more than once.

Meanwhile, let’s chat about your husband for a minute. Why has he gone all radio silent when he’s been helpful in the past? There could be any number of reasons. Maybe he’s having a hard time facing the decline of a family member. Maybe he thinks you don’t need his help. Maybe he hopes you aren’t noticing that he’s not helping. Or maybe he just hasn’t thought about it that much. In any event, initiating a conversation might be useful for both of you.

Wishing you the best during this stressful chapter of your life.

Dear Ann Cannon • Some good friends of ours are getting a divorce. I like and admire both of the men involved and want to maintain a relationship with them, but I’m feeling pressured from them — and from mutual friends, as well — to take sides. Any suggestions for navigating this?

Surprisingly and Seriously Sad in Syracuse

Dear Sad • Divorce always feels a little like a death to me, even when it’s ultimately a good thing for the parties involved. I understand your sadness is what I’m saying. Meanwhile, I’ll be honest. While I support your decision to stay friendly with both parties if that’s what you want to do, it won’t be easy. At least not at first. The pressure to take sides will probably increase, and if you don’t choose a team, chances are good that you’ll be viewed with some hostility — even if it’s mild — by the very people with whom you’d like to remain on good terms. Time, however, will help with that.

What should you do in the meantime? For starters, don’t badmouth the parties involved — either to them or to their friends and allies. You might choose to limit your time (for now, at least) with your friends so you won’t be used as a go-between against your will or your better judgment. Do let both parties know that you love them and want them to be happy.

I hope this helps.

And speaking of go-betweens, I received this from a reader:

To the person who thinks it’s the Relief Society president’s job to take care of drama going on in the nursery • The president is not being a pansy by staying out of it but setting the perfect example of staying out of other people’s business. Having a presiding role in the church is not glorious or glamorous. Honestly, it’s exhausting, and I truly wish that those who think they know how to better lead their organization would get the calling.

If the mother feels like her son is being bullied, then she should learn how to advocate for her son and stop trying to find a leader to fight her battles for her. Too often, people play the victim and don’t step up and defend themselves. Maybe her son would learn to stand up for himself after seeing his mom stand up for him.

Be Your Own Advocate

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.