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Dear Amy: My husband and I have been together for 16 years, during which time he has always been obsessed with having his back rubbed. More specifically, it is his back, his legs (if we’re sitting on the couch), and even his neck while riding in the car.
I am a people-pleaser. I did this to show him I loved him, and it just became the norm.
Fast-forward to two kids, a house to run, and a full-time teaching job, and I can’t stand that during our down-time together he asks me to constantly rub his back and legs.
We have other problems in our relationship that I am working on with a counselor.
I had thought once those problems were fixed, I wouldn’t hate the idea of being my husband’s in-home masseuse.
However, after telling him no today – and watching him pout yet again – I realize I am just done performing this act of service for him.
I want to enjoy sitting next to him again without the rage that I feel when he asks me to do this for him.
My husband says that this “time together” is what makes him feel loved.
If that’s the case, am I doing a disservice to my marriage to refuse to spend our time together massaging his back?
– Burnt Out Wife
Dear Burnt Out: If being your husband’s “in-home masseuse” is the act of service that makes him feel loved, then what is his act of service that makes you feel loved? I assume it might be something as simple as him allowing you to sit quietly in proximity without requiring you to do anything in particular – in short, letting you do and act however you please.
There is no question that people in intimate partnerships serve one another, and it is helpful to recognize those things your partner might do – oftentimes without being asked – that make you feel loved.
The demand, expectation, and pouting (on his part) and rage (on yours) makes this seem less like an act of service, and more like a toll to be paid. You do this to avoid a negative reaction, rather than to inspire a positive one.
It might be helpful for you to ask your husband if he can name some other things you do that make him feel loved.
You should both read Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (2015, Northfield Publishing).
Dear Amy: With cellphones holding thousands of photos, I have found myself being held hostage by people searching their phones for photos.
These are the people who, in the middle of a conversation, get excited to show a particular picture.
Oftentimes, they need to scroll and scroll and scroll to find it. When they finally do, they shov their phone at your face without asking if you’d even like to see their photos.
This is not only disruptive to the conversation, but also very annoying to stand there and watch as they search and fumble.
How can I stop being an unwilling participant in this phone photo-pushing ritual?
Smiling and glancing at one photo only serves to inspire them to search for more.
Dear Tired: I think of these enervating interruptions as “The Dead See Scrolls.”
You might say, “Hey, why don’t you text that photo to me later … that way we can keep talking.”
Readers might have better suggestions. I’ll happily run them.
Dear Amy: The question from “Twin Mom” really resonated.
We’re elders now, but as children, my identical twin brother and I fought at least once every day.
We were constantly arguing over who got which portion of food, and who got “cheated.”
Mom’s solution was pretty simple. For fighting, unless there was blood, she didn’t want to hear about it: “You two work it out.”
If there was blood, she patched up the injured twin and asked the other to explain and apologize.
For food portions, she said, “You two take turns. One of you divides the food, and the other one picks which portion he wants.”
– Problem solved.
By the way, my brother became a vascular surgeon, and I became a lawyer and later a judge.
We have been best friends all our lives.
– Paul Conaway
Dear Paul: I have enjoyed the dozens of responses addressing the dilemma of the battling twins, but your story of the future vascular surgeon and the judge (with the very wise mother) puts all of it into perspective.