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Dear Annie: Husband needs constant reassurance

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years. We have been together for almost 20 years and have three beautiful children. The problem is that he has always needed more assurance of love than me — e.g., he asks, “Do you love me,” even though I constantly remind him that I love and appreciate him. It’s lately been more annoying because I just had a baby. I’ve done everything to show him love. I’ve even disregarded my doctors’ recommendations of the minimum time off intimacy, postpartum.

I’ve tried in many different ways to show him. I use verbal reassurance and I also show him by doing things I know he appreciates. The other day he asked me, “How much do you love me?” and I almost lost my temper. My husband has no loving relationship with his mother and everything he has tried to get her attention or for her to show him love of any kind has not been successful. I wonder if that could be the root of it all.

Help me understand what is it that my husband needs and what can I do differently. — Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: It’s not about anything that you can do differently. Tell him you love him a million times a day; it won’t be enough — not until he gets into therapy and processes his abandonment issues. Urge him to make an appointment today. Offer to go with him to the first session, if that helps him to take this step. With some professional help, he can begin laying the foundation of a healthy sense of self. Otherwise, your attempts to shore him up will be like trying to build a house on quicksand.

Read on for some additional insights that might be relevant to you.

Dear Annie: In a recent response, you wrote, in part: “I recommend reading Melody Beattie’s ‘Codependent No More’ and attending some meetings of a support group such as Families Anonymous before deciding on your next move.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping to enlighten folks about codependency, a harmful set of behaviors that, as you point out, enable people to continue in their dysfunction.

The vast majority of answers to help columns such as yours could point people to self-help programs on codependency. One of the key programs is Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), but any -anon group addresses codependency (e.g., Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics).

One of the key phrases from such programs? Mind your own business (MYOB). As the mother lets go and the son experiences the consequences of HIS actions and decisions, the sooner he MAY help himself. No one can do it for him. — Living Freely

Dear Living Freely: “MYOB”: I think most of us could use a tattoo of that on the palm. Good across-the-board advice for anyone — and thanks for the recommendation of Codependents Anonymous, another well-respected support group.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Worn-Down Mom,” whose adult son lives with her and is verbally abusive. I think you gave great advice, but it occurs to me that if has lived with her for most of her adult life and only the past five years has he been abusive, there may be some cognitive impairment going on. Adults with untreated diabetes are more likely to develop dementia. He ought to have a cognitive evaluation. — B. Duenke

Dear B.: Thank you for your astute and important observation. I wasn’t aware of the diabetes-dementia connection, but I looked it into it more after reading your letter and found a 2014 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which followed more than 13,000 adults over 20 years and found that people who had diabetes in midlife had a 19% greater chance of cognitive decline.

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