She’s baaaaaack! / Take as needed for…treading lightly
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My wife and I just moved into a condo near Millsboro and quickly made friends with our neighbors. One of them has what I guess used to be called a “latchkey kid” who comes home from school two to three hours before her parents return from work. She’s 11 years old and has sort of imprinted on us and finds pretty much any excuse to spend those hours with us in our home. We like her, but we are not sure how to regain our privacy. We feel bad for her and don’t want to hurt her feelings.
Dr. Hurd replies,
When you pretend with people, you will always hurt their feelings in the end. Because once the pretense is exposed, feelings get hurt—often because you were dishonest rather than because of the issue you were holding in. And it’s just as true with kids, who, while naïve and inexperienced in some respects, have highly tuned emotional radar detectors.
You’ll have to start with the parents. Choose your words thoughtfully. But before you do that, clarify what you think and want. I don’t want to put words into your mouth. Do you enjoy having their daughter in your home, sometimes? Most of the time? If so, what are the parameters? Or do you not want her there at all? Know what you want and be forthright about it.
Once you make it clear to the parents, you can also explain it to their daughter, in a way to minimize her hurt feelings. She’ll be disappointed, and she’ll probably be hurt, as well. That’s OK. We all have feelings, and getting them hurt is part of the risk of living everyday life. It’s natural and it’s perfectly OK. Try not to be so afraid of hurt feelings; your own, or another’s. People—especially kids, interestingly enough—are remarkably resilient. If you handle this thoughtfully, and in the way you’d like it handled if roles were reversed, everything will be fine. The only real problem here is your anxiety.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner and I have been together for 25 years. He recently had surgery and was prescribed pain pills. That was almost six months ago. He insists that he is still in pain, but I find that hard to believe, as I watch him go about his day and there is no evidence that he is suffering. I can’t figure out why the doctor continues to refill his prescription! I think he is addicted to the pills and using the surgery as an excuse. When I bring this up, he gets angry and tells me that I don’t know how much pain he is in. I’m very annoyed with his doctor! What to do?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Not much. It’s not your body. Even if the doctor’s prescription habits are questionable, you can’t necessarily stop it. However, if—and I mean if—your spouse’s doctor will talk with you, air your concerns in a civil and professional way. Take the attitude, “Is there something I’m missing here?” If you choose to take this step, don’t conceal this from your partner. He’s already angry at you. If you are going to insert yourself into the situation, then you might as well bundle that anger in one lump experience and get it over with.
Note that I am not saying you must talk to his doctor. It’s merely an option. You might even give your partner the choice to go with you. If he says it’s none of your business, reaffirm that you understand it’s his body and his medical care. However, you love him and you’re deeply invested in him. Doesn’t that at least count for something? Be balanced but strong. This usually works. If it doesn’t, then there are issues in your relationship beyond this that need addressing. And that’s OK. You can figure those out together and potentially come out of it loving each other even more.
In my daily practice, I have observed that doctors are under the microscope as never before for prescription of pain pills. The good ones are sincerely concerned that they don’t let their patients get addicted. In my honest opinion, some level of addiction seems unavoidable if you’re going to go on pain pills. There’s no perfect answer here.
I assume you are not a prescribing professional, so it’s hard to have an expert perspective. Sure, it’s healthy to question authority and ask questions. But recognize what you don’t know as well. Instead of trying to control your spouse’s pill intake, which obviously is never going to happen, perhaps you might focus on areas where he might appreciate your help. “How can I make things better for you? Is there anything I can do that I’m not already doing?” Ask these questions and mean them. After all, the reason you’re so worked up about this is because you love him. Remind him of that, and take the focus off of just trying to control his actions.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.