Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My wife and I worry about our daughter. She’s a sophomore at a top university. She’s made the honor roll for three semesters in a row. Obviously, her academic progress is not our concern. What we don’t talk about is her worsening drinking problem. Since she started college, she’s been cited twice for underage drinking (Minor in Possession) and broken her wrist in a fall that we all but know was alcohol-related. We don’t know how, if, or when to say anything about our suspicions and fears. Ours is not a family comfortable with open discussions about sensitive subjects; we tend to go the ostrich route. In my gut, I feel we’re heading for disaster. How can we intervene before something even worse happens? She has a car on campus and we worry most about her driving drunk.

Worried Parents

DEAR WORRIED: According to a recent government study, 39 percent of college students binge drank within the last month. If your daughter is drinking, it makes her vulnerable to legal consequences (getting caught), physical injury (this has already happened), unwanted sexual contact, fractured relationships, hurting or injuring others by driving drunk, and the possibility of graduating from college with a serious drinking problem.

I hope you are brave enough to take your heads out of the sand in order to try to be honest about your concerns. Intervening now, before she is of legal drinking age, might be most effective.

Colleges have a long way to go to control student drinking. Your daughter’s school may only fine her and require her to take an online alcohol education course.

But you are her parents. In your gut, you feel you are headed for disaster. I hope you will violate your family’s ostrich technique, and open up this topic for a loving parent-to-daughter talk.

Expect her to laugh, deny, deflect and maybe even blame you. Tell her that your concerns are so grave that you don’t trust her with the car. A DWI could not only alter or end another person’s life, but ruin hers.

Expect this conversation to be awkward and challenging. But have it anyway.

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Realistically, you may not be able to alter her drinking. But your own honesty and vulnerability may eventually inspire her to take her own head out of the sand and be honest with herself, if not with you. The dean’s office at your daughter’s school might help, and collegedrinkingprevention.gov has some helpful information and ideas.

DEAR AMY: My wife and I have been married for more than 25 years. We tell each other how much we love each other. For many of those years, we were sexually intimate. Suddenly, about 10 years ago, she stopped. We still hold hands and touch each other, but have no sexual contact. I don’t want to go outside our marriage, but it is really starting to bother me. We are both well over 50, but I feel as though there are still years of intimacy that could be had. Do I just accept the way it is and find someone else to release the frustration, or is this normal for our ages? I have never cheated, and don’t really want to start now.

Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: If I told you this was normal, would you feel better? I don’t think you would. Having an affectionate, loving, non-sexual relationship does happen in many long-term marriages, but one or the other partner often seems to feel cheated, lonely, sad and/or frustrated.

You have been tolerating this for 10 years, which demonstrates a heroic amount of patience, but now this involuntary chastity is starting to bother you, and so you should take the very first step toward either starting to mend the problem, or at least understand it. Talk to your wife.

She might have been hit hard by menopause. Or she might be waiting patiently for you.

A book that might help both of you is, “The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couples Guide,” by therapist Michele Weiner Davis (2004, Simon & Schuster).

DEAR AMY: Responding to the “Upset Wife,” whose irresponsible husband was insisting on bringing another dog home, a spouse is infinitely more important than any dog. Bringing a dog into such a family amounts to depraved cruelty to both. This guy should be (just barely) cleared to own a dog, but does not deserve to have a wife.

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Dog Lover and Wife Lover

DEAR DOG LOVER: I like the way you put this.