Dear Margo: I've been married for almost 10 years. We recently had a baby, and my husband's a great dad. Over the past couple of years, though, I've started feeling very lonely. When he comes home from work, he spends a couple of hours with me that feel forced. Then he spends the rest of his waking hours in his home office until 4 or 5 a.m. I have slept alone in our bed every single night for two years, including the entire time I was pregnant.
I have discussed this with him, but to no avail. He blows it off, gets upset with me or promises to work on a change (which never comes). Each time after our talks, he will spend one day being super-sweet to me, and then it's back to the status quo. It has become a running joke (to him) for me to ask him to go to bed with me and for him to patronize me with a smile, call me silly and send me off to bed alone. To top it off, while I was pregnant I found a text from him to a female co-worker asking her to skip work and go to a movie with him. He offered her a ride to work one day, telling me at the time that he was taking "some people" to work.
If he had not been secretive about these things, I never would have been suspicious. I feel like I deserve to be married to someone who wants to be with me, and though he says he does, I feel his actions prove otherwise. I've asked friends for advice, and they think I should not be putting up with this, so I was hoping for a neutral POV. — Miserable
Dear Mis: To tell you the truth, I don't know how you got pregnant. I also don't know whether he's carrying on with the co-worker. But I will tell you this: He is acting like a rent-a-dad who is your roommate. There is so much wrong with this set-up that I would recommend a separation because I get a strong vibe that counseling is not in the cards. One of you should move to a place nearby so you can co-parent, and the time apart will clarify what the final outcome should be. (And I agree with your friends.) — Margo, forwardly
The Curse of Three?
Dear Margo: I feel like Calamity Jane and want to stop feeling sorry for myself. In the course of one day last week, the following things happened: The dog ran away, the baby threw up on a silk chair, and I forgot about a roast chicken in the oven and only remembered it when the smoke alarm went off. When my husband came home, I was a head case. I told him about my day from hell, and he just laughed. I wanted to brain him, but thought better of it. By the way, do you believe that bad things happen in threes? — Beleaguered
Dear Be: I gotta give it to you: That's a rotten day. Stuff happens (to everyone), and if we're lucky, these things are not piled one on top of the other. Of course, you know that the mishaps on that particular day were not of the disastrous kind. (Well, maybe the dog.) And I think I do believe in the "3's" thing because it seems to have proved out, often with airplane crashes. I also know that such things are coincidences. Hope today is a great day! — Margo, steadily
Dear Margo: I am brokenhearted about losing my husband of 25 years. I had no idea he was unhappy and longing for a different life. We're in our early 60s, and we both got laid off. That began a wonderful adventure, but it recently turned very sour.
It all started earlier this year when he received a phone call from an old high-school girlfriend who he said was his first love. Well, now they are renewing their romance. At the time this woman called, I thought nothing of it because my husband assured me nothing would come of it. Ha! And did I mention that this other woman has been married to the same man for 40 years and is planning to leave him for my husband?
I need advice and cannot afford counseling. I am not religious, so that's not an option. One more thing: My son and his wife are expecting their third child and live across the county from me. I am planning to see them in two weeks to help out with their toddlers because my daughter-in-law is due next month. We both have grown children from previous marriages, and I don't think our kids have a clue as to what is going on. — Wrung Out
Dear Wrung: I am really sorry that the high-school flame called and blew up two marriages. This rekindling business is becoming more and more common — not that that makes your situation any easier. As for psychological help, check your insurance policy to see what they will provide. Also, there is useful guidance at www.healthcaresurvivalguide.com for finding free or low-cost counseling services.
I think one bit of good luck is your upcoming trip to be a helpful granny. I hope you stay a good long time, which will give you the chance to be without your husband, but not alone. There is always the chance that Miss First Love from high school will not go through with it, but if your marriage does end, get a good lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement. I hope your spirits lift. One never knows what is around the corner — or across the country. I am a big believer in changing the scenery. — Margo, alternatively
"None of Your Business," but Politely
Dear Margo: My husband and I have been married for several years, have good jobs and a nice home, and are at that age where all of our friends are having babies. We had planned on having babies, too, but found out that I am infertile. We were devastated at first, but after much prayer and meditation, we came to the realization that it is OK not to have kids. We are happy simply being the loving aunt and uncle.
Problem is, some people knew we were trying, and everyone seems to be asking when we will have kids. I have dodged the questions by saying we are busy working or having fun, because to say the truth seems deeply personal and, as I found when I told family members, it leads to suggestions about fertility drugs, IVF and adoption: all questions I do not want to discuss. How do I politely respond to all those nosy people and avoid the follow-up questions? — Dreading Questions
Dear Dread: I'm guessing you are a new reader, because I have been dealing with some variation of this question for a looong time. I am a great believer in not answering every question that is asked, and also in letting people know that they have overstepped. The next time someone asks about your reproductive plans, I pass on what writer and critic Renata Adler said to me when I asked an inappropriate question: "We could talk about it sometime." Though sounding courteous, it stings — and proof of this is that I remember it after many years. — Margo, definitively
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.