Q. I recently remarried a widower who is 68. I am 65. He lost his wife five years ago and we met two years ago. I thought he had worked through his grief over the loss of his wife, but I am afraid I have been misled. I frequently feel compared to his dear departed wife. Whether it is the way I make spaghetti sauce, the type of sheets I buy for the bed or the way I organize the cupboards, he remarks that this isn't how it is "supposed to be done, " which means this isn't how his wife did it.
I feel destined to live in her shadow of how the ideal wife acts, and that my ways are always less then perfect, or not good enough. I am starting to become angry and fight back but he doesn't seem to understand how I feel. What can I do?
A. The grieving process takes place through a sequence of stages. Your husband may have done well for the first part of his grieving process, to the point of meeting a new woman, falling in love again and making a commitment to marriage.
However, he may be hitting a snag in this stage of the process, which involves letting go of old familiar rituals that defined love and attachment, and creating new ones around you and your marriage. He needs to be guided to value and appreciate the new rituals, manners and details of life that define your unique relationship.
It sounds as though he still has a piece of grief work to do, and he may be helped by a few brief sessions with a licensed psychologist or other mental health provider who may be available through your insurance.
If you have traditional Medicare, it will cover your psychotherapy visits at 50 percent coverage.
There is no stigma in seeking help for the grieving process or any other mental health concern. His therapy work may involve addressing matters that he still misses from his lost marriage and recognizing the sadness involved in such a deep loss.
However, once he addresses and articulates how he experiences this, he can begin to put this aside for the larger and more vivid experience of having you in his life in the here and now. He can learn to direct his attention, energy and focus to appreciating you and what you have brought to his life at this stage in the game.
Then he needs to practice expressing appreciation for you on a daily basis, just as you can do with him. We never tire of hearing from our loved ones how much we matter, how important we are and how we make their life more joyful.
The psychologist can assist him in looking at his cognitive appraisals of how the house "should" be run, and help him replace these with an updated version of how the two of you determine the organization and implementation of household tasks.
His "shoulds" derive from a lifetime of experience and are hard to give up at any stage of life, but it certainly can be accomplished with help.
In addition, as a couple, you may wish to divide household tasks into territories, such as he does the laundry, you do the food shopping, etc., so that you aren't micromanaging each other's work and efforts. Try this as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (561) 694- 6703. Her Web site is