Q. Young Husband's Stroke: Two years ago, my husband's personality drastically changed overnight. Months later, after showing him one of your columns, I convinced him to see a doctor. It turns out he had a minor stroke at the age of 40. He did not notice the change; however, I was concerned because his short-term memory was very limited, common sense was gone, and he was no longer affectionate or attentive with me. The first year was really hard, I helped him stay on top of his job, and I wrote extensive notes so he wouldn't forget to feed our kids or forget to drop them off at day care on his way into work. Fast-forward to present day, his memory has slightly improved, I check his emails just once per day to make sure he took care of all of his work obligations, and he has turned into a really fantastic and fun father. My problem is he still is not affectionate with me. I really miss that aspect of our relationship, and I do schedule date nights with a baby-sitter several times a month and overnights with the grandparents a couple times a month. I have to ask him to hold my hand, kiss, or hug me, and we are basically celibate. I have tried talking about it with him; however, he thinks he's very affectionate. I feel like this is a memory issue, and I've asked him to return to the doctor. I love my husband, but I'm starting to feel desperate for attention! How do I handle this situation?
A: I'm so sorry for this situation and am grateful for this confirmation that drastic personality changes call for an immediate medical evaluation. You have made a heroic effort to keep your husband functioning, and this must be incredibly draining. I hope you have a lot of emotional support yourself and have the opportunity for respite from dealing with your own life and managing your husband's. One hallmark of brain damage is that people lose an awareness of how they are behaving. Your husband needs more rehabilitation. Fortunately, we now recognize how plastic the brain is, and as your husband is still young, the potential for further healing is there. But he needs therapy. Since you're such a good organizer, start doing research to find the kind of rehabilitation center that works on healing the whole person. Having couples therapy with a counselor schooled in the physical and psychological consequences of stroke could make a huge difference in your lives.
Q. Relationships: I'm a 19-year-old college freshman who just had her first kiss, and other things, this weekend. I had been extremely anxious to get this out of the way. The guy was extremely sweet, attractive, and intelligent, and he actually wanted a relationship with me. I felt no chemistry, however, and quickly ended it. The physical encounter we had (not sex) triggered a depression in me, and now I keep flashing back and feeling disgusted. I do not think this is normal, especially for someone my age. Is there something wrong with me? Should I try to date other people right now?
A: I can see being eager to have this experience and hoping it would be transcendent. But there's something wrong if you were simply anxious to get it over with. That kind of attitude tends not to lead to a lot of chemistry. Since you have no sexual experience, it's realistic to expect your first encounters will feel awkward and self-conscious. But disgusted and depressed is not a normal reaction. I'm wondering if you have had some sexual trauma in your past or you were raised in a sexually punitive environment. Put off dating for now, and since you are at college, take advantage of the free counseling available to you and discuss your reactions with a therapist.
Q. Footing the Bill for Mom's Boyfriend?: My father passed away almost four years ago, and my mother found a new "companion" very soon after. I was happy for her, especially because I live several hundred miles away and am not able to visit very often and did not want her to be lonely. My mother and "Bob" never married but lived together in my mother's apartment at an independent living center. My mother never changed her will to provide anything for Bob after her passing. Unfortunately my mother passed away three months ago. I am the executor of my mom's estate, which is to be liquidated and split between my sister and me. I was recently quite shocked when Bob's children contacted me to inquire about how I planned to accommodate Bob's living requirements since my mother's apartment has been returned to the facility for resale. To be honest, I had no plans to provide for Bob going forward at all. My mother had a very small estate and had she wished to provide for him, she clearly could have because she updated all her formal documents (wills, powers of attorney, etc.) after Bob was in the picture. I met Bob on only a couple of occasions and have never met his daughters. Am I missing something, or is Bob's family on its own to provide him a place to live?
A: Get a lawyer. You're right that your mother apparently pointedly did not provide for Bob, but an attorney can advise you of the legal implications of your mother allowing him to be a tenant in her home. Since you have no personal or emotional ties to Bob, have your lawyer communicate with his family about the nature of the law.
Q. Name Pronunciation: I have worked at an organization for a few years now, and I got a new boss last year. I really enjoy working for him. The one nagging issue is that he doesn't pronounce my first name exactly right. It's not English, so I understand the struggle most people have with it initially, but once I pronounce it a few times people usually get a hang of it. The way he says it is close but not exact. I corrected him a couple times then let it go because I was still relatively new at this organization and didn't want to put my boss in an awkward position. However, he frequently introduces me to people, and it's starting to become even more awkward to have people hear the incorrect pronunciation, ask me again how to say it later, and hear that I say it differently. How do I correct him now that I've let this issue go on for a year, and how can I do it in a tactful and kind way?
A: After he has incorrectly introduced you again, later in the day knock on his door and ask if you can talk about something for a second. With a smile on your face explain that he's close, but not quite right in how he's saying your name. Then give him a couple of mnemonics. "It's easy to remember that Damara rhymes with camera." Or, "Here's what my name would look like if I spelled it phonetically." Keep it light to reduce the embarrassment. Then expect he's not going to do it perfectly at first since he's been saying it wrong for a year. As for telling others how you pronounce it if he's mispronounced it, what you need to convey is that you're not ticked off. Smile, say it correctly, and add that your parents didn't take into account how hard your name would be for native English speakers.
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