Dear Dr. Romance

I found you online when i googled "How to Live with a Slob". My husband and I are opposites in the area of how to keep a house -- i am very clean and he is, well, not at all. The clutter drives me crazy! It is just one more issue that impacts our relationship.  My husband has been getting better and better, slowly and in fits, since we married. He had terrible problems with drinking, drugging, and violence and has for the most part has made huge positive change in his life. However, the emotional struggles that stem from his traumatic past add another layer of conflict and because I tend toward depression and anxiety, I feel that i don't have the personal tools many times to work with him most constructively.

My husband is a veteran with PTSD and the insomnia and emotional disequilibrium that comes with it. He has a very traumatic past of childhood abuse, war, and years as a tough guy, put aside since we married. He is something of a celebrity musician and I am a garden-variety depressive who has been diagnosed with borderline. My husband is a very eccentric man and we both are musicians; I am a "retired" teacher who moved to this area when we married.

I love him tremendously and know he is a very troubled man; however, he also is very brave and loving and we both want our marriage to work. He has said he wants to continue with counseling, but he will not do "90 meetings in 90 days." I have been sober in AA for 18 years, by the way. I look forward to your reply and thank you much for reading my message.

Dear Reader:

Your love for your husband shines through your letter. I'm glad he's improving; and that fact gives me hope that he can improve further. PTSD is treatable, and he has two kinds: from his childhood, and from his military experience. If he won't go to "90 in 90" will he go to any meetings? He could probably benefit a lot from Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings, and don't insist he go to a specific number. Just ask him to go to one with you, and the meetings themselves should attract him. I'm glad you're going to couples therapy, keep going, and if he's resistant to going to therapy on his own, give him some time to feel safe with counseling before you bring it up. It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction would help your husband understand and process his childhood traumas, and for you, The Real 13th Step: Achieving Autonomy, Confidence and Self-reliance Beyond the Twelve Step Program is designed to help people already established in recovery learn relationship and other skills they need, beyond what AA teaches.

IEWY new cover The Real 13th Step_ebook
For low-cost phone counseling, email me at

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.