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Ask the Psychologist

Herman Lowe, Ph. D., FPPR has been in clinical practice for over 20 years. He is presently owner of a group practice located in Stoughton, MA. Details of how to get in touch with Dr. Lowe can be found at the end of this section.

Questions

Q. My husband and I live in an old Federal house that has been in my family for generations. His doctor says that he has severe allergies to the house and has advised him to move into a modern home which would break my heart. My husband says I care more about the house than his health.

A. I feel bad for the both of you. This is a very difficult problem to solve. As you know what is a good solution for one of you will not work for the other. What psychologists try to do with these kinds of problems is to look for a ‘win/win’ solution. This is a problem solving technique where you find a way of solving your problems in which you both think that you have won. As compared to a ‘lose/lose’ situation where you both lose or a ‘lose/win’ situation, where one wins and the other loses. Now let’s get down to some examples. Is there any way a member of the family could purchase or rent the house? That way the house remains in the family even though you don’t live there. A second solution is to build on a large bedroom/den so that your husband would spend at least 8-10 hours in an allergy free environment. Say, maybe you could look for a new home and perhaps both of you would just fall in love with it and maybe there would be enough money left over to purchase a summer home. My advice for both of you is don’t get angry at one another. Keep searching for a way out of this problem that you are both satisfied with. Finally, I just got another idea. Maybe there is a way you can make your home allergy free! Don’t give up!

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Q. My wife and I have always split all household expenses down the middle. Now I have allergies and she refuses to contribute to the things my doctor says we should buy for the house. My position is that many of these items are good sense anyway and contribute to a healthier lifestyle, which benefits us both.

A. Finances are a major source of conflict between couples. Apparently the two of you do not have an understanding of who pays for what or what falls into household expenses and what are personal expenses. What if he wants a new stereo system and you don’t want one? What if one of you wants a garage door opener and the other doesn’t? Here is what I suggest you do. Make a decision as to how much you want to spend per year on all household expenses. Break this down into categories such as, necessities (i.e., food, furniture, and equipment) Allocate so much money for each item in your budget. Then, divide the amount in each category in half and each one an buy whatever he or she wants. So, if you decide to allocate $3,000 for furniture, each can spend $1,500 on what ever he or she wants. That way no one has to give up anything and each of you can buy some of the things you want. Hope you find my suggestion helpful!

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Q. I have allergies to dogs and yet my husband insists on having the dog sleep with us. I don’t feel that he takes my allergies seriously. I wake up every morning congested and feeling terrible.

A. Sounds like someone or something has to go. We teach couples good sleep hygiene. Beds are for sleeping and sex. I can understand your husband’s attachment to dogs. However, he is not bonding with the dog if they are both sleeping. If he wants to play with the dog I think he should do it in another room. Be firm! Tell him no dogs in the bed. Good luck! Hey, offer him a reward if he cooperates!!

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Q. My youngest daughter has recently been diagnosed with as allergic to cats. Mary, my 17 year- old is crazy about cats and threatens to go live over at her boyfriend’s house with his parents if I give the cats away.

A. People, especially children, become very attached to animals. We’ve got to come up with a way that Mary can keep the cats or, at least, not have to give them away. Is there a way that the cats can be kept in one area of the house so that your younger daughter does not come in contact with them? Can the cats temporarily stay with a friend or family member in a boarding situation until Mary is old enough to move out and live on her own? In any event , the cats have to be removed because your youngest daughter’s health is more important than Mary’s attachment to her cats. Sort of like our smoking problem, smokers need to find a way to smoke that will not interfere with non-smokers.

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Q. I find it difficult to travel and go away on vacation because hotel rooms often make me sick. My wife, who loves travel, thinks I am a hypochondriac. This is causing a lot of tension between us.

A. More and more hotels are putting aside rooms that they call ‘allergy-free.’ Search for one. Hey, do you like camping? Maybe a motor home or travel trailer is the answer to your problems. That way you sort of bring your hotel room with you.

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Q. We have three children, one of whom has severe asthma. She obviously gets more attention even though we try very hard to treat her like the others. The other two children are resentful, especially of the extra money we spend, which leaves less money for other things.

A. I’ll tackle the last problem first. How do the other children know how much money you spend on treating your child’s asthma? This is a private matter that should not involve the children. Make sure that they do not hear you talk or complain about these expenses. Further, make each child feel special. Do something unique for each, such as, giving one dancing lessons and the other swimming lessons. Find something special about each child and reward them for accomplishments in this area. Picture each child as leaving an ‘ego’ that needs to be fed with praise.

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Q. Help! I have multiple chemical sensitivities. At the moment I can rarely leave the house although the doctor says that may change over time. I feel so lonely and depressed and my friends think I am whacko.

A. Sounds like you are headed for a major depression episode if you are not careful. You are really going to have to work hard to find a stimulating lifestyle while confined to your home, especially activities that bring people to you since you cannot go to them. Do you like cards? There could be a steady bridge game at your house every night. Also, get online. Talk to people in chat rooms. Volunteer to do work or find a business to run out of your home. Good luck! Keep going to your doctor and keep looking for ways to treat your chemical sensitivities so that you have more freedom.

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