Fort Mill Times

Ask Dr. Jay - May 20, 2009

Dear Dr. Jay,

My husband and I, as he says it, have "run out of stuff to talk about." We are quite close, our kids are grown and we enjoy spending a lot of time together. What could be wrong? Help!

Dear tongue-tied,

This is one of the two most common complaints I hear from couples whom have kids that are grown and/or gone. The other being the opposite; those that spend no time together even though the kids are grown/ gone from the home. After kids leave the house or are old enough to watch for themselves but still live at home, couples actually still behave the same way they are used to behaving. Some couples have a "divide and conquer" mentality, where one will watch them while the other goes golfing, and one will return the favor for every Tuesday "Girl's night." These couples often remain with outside interests, and are not sure what to do with one another even though they have the time and ability once the kids are older. Other couples, like yourself, do things as a family but when the kids are grown-up and want to do other things, they "run out of stuff to talk about" because the family was always the thing to talk about.

The answer, as it is in most things, is good balance. Make sure you do some things individually as well. There are many, many organizations that are fun and can be rewarding (church groups, soup kitchens, schools) or groups that are just fun (bridge clubs, biking clubs, etc.) that you can get involved in and make "your thing." This gives you plenty to talk about, and gives you some time apart to miss one another.

Dear Dr. Jay,

I forgot Mother's Day. Is there anything I can do to make it up to my mom and wife (wonderful mother of two)? To make matters worse, the kids made something for her at school which made me the only one empty handed.

Dear Mr. Do not collect $200 go directly to jail,

Obviously, you are going to have to use different tactics with your mom and your wife. With your wife, I would suggest going on offense; Say something like this: "Honey, with all the cooking and cleaning you get to do, everyday is Mother's Day." Or, "Can you believe these crazy corporate American machines that contrive these silly holidays just to make a buck?" If that does not work, say "Can you believe how sorry the kids cards were? Geez the heart isn't even glued on straight. Good thing I know better than to clutter up your space with junk like that!" She should immediately see that you are right, and apologize for being angry.

With your mom I would do more of a constructive rather than compassionate approach like you did with your wife. Say something like "I have the greatest gift, and you will still get it on Mother's Day, but I am running into unexpected problems with my time machine design." Or offense: "When is 'Son's Day?'" Let me know how these suggestions work out; I am a professional.

• Jay White is a native of Fort Mill and is a licensed professional counselor. He can be reached for questions or comment at