Abby and Anxiety


It is time for another episode of “Abby Annoys” where the Rural Reader rants about the daily, national column “Dear Abby.” Like a moth to the flame, I return every day and usually things are low on the “she bugs me scale!” but every once in a while I need my readers to indulge me. It provides me a place to ventilate my frustration and hopefully do some education (or re-education) in the process. Many of the issues facing her writers are related to health, relationships, family and marital functioning, and well, bad advice is the gift that keeps giving!

The question appeared on January 5, 2016 and it was from “Social Butterfly in Portland, Oregon.” The problem was that the wife, married for 21 years, was complaining that her husband has becoming more resistant to going out to public places. This also involves visiting with family and friends. The problem began 10 years ago and the husband would even get sick, she would cancel plans, and then he would feel better.

Abby’s response was pretty curt and was simply for the writer to stop making excuses for her husband and begin just to go places alone. Ouch! That is a recipe for making a bad situation worse. In this world, there are more and more things to distract the marital couple from each other: electronics, TV, sports/hobbies, work schedules, special needs children, cell phones, and the list goes on. Any advice that pushes partners apart is dangerous. Now, it is fine to do things separately from time to time, but it is not healthy for that to be the policy every time there is an invite. 

The Bible says when you have a problem, seek wisdom. Abby, doesn’t encourage the discouraged butterfly to get a second opinion. From the outset, it sounds like her spouse has developed “social anxiety.” It is a common malady involving an irrational fear or discomfort with social situations. A visit to his primary physician and some meds for his fears could quickly make an unmanageable situation easier for him to cope with.

Another common reason people avoid socialization with family and friends is alcohol abuse. Maybe the butterfly likes her beers or brandy, but he is getting burned out with those who over “imbibe.”  If you grew up in an alcoholic situation, the time comes when you get really tired, or “sick”, of being around drunks or people who drink and starting acting goofy. If you have gone out and socialized this past holiday season, and you were around people who drink, a few of them might have gotten a little out of hand. Notice this letter was written January 5thright after the peak of the holiday season.  

I admit I have a bias here, being a counselor but also having alcoholism in my family. The writer could also have an alcohol problem, which she doesn’t admit in the letter. After 20 years, he may not want to be with her when she is drinking. 

Sometimes we are just different from our spouses. I love sports’ games and my wife tolerates them, unless the grandkids are playing. We have different tolerances for different activities, and socializing is just one thing that partners may perceive differently. Short term marital counseling would be a wise recommendation in this situation. Communication, cooperation and compromise make marriages better. They may need a little help in these areas. When Abby recommends abandonment rather that positive action towards problem resolution, well it just makes me worry more about Abby’s readers.