Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 28 years. We've had some ups and downs, but we have three great (adult) kids, a nice house, decent jobs, no debt, and we generally get along well. A couple of years ago I found out that my husband had been viewing Internet porn. A lot. I was devastated. I've never had great self-esteem where my appearance is concerned, and my husband has never been one to pay compliments. We went to counseling and he said all the right things. I told him I was crushed by what he was doing and that I needed to know that he finds me physically attractive. I said this often, in sessions and at home. More than a year later I still don't get compliments. I know he no longer views porn, and I know that he loves me and appreciates me, but I can't understand why he can't do this for me. I know I am just an average middle-aged woman, but I am not overweight, I take good care of myself, I am involved in many activities. Though I know I'm nowhere near perfect, when I look in the mirror I am OK with what I see. Should I just get over it? Should I accept that this is MY problem and that he is not ever going to say what I need to hear, and just drop it and appreciate the good things in my life? I rarely mention this to him anymore.

-- Dejected

DEAR DEJECTED: On the most basic level, your husband cannot be responsible for your self-esteem. And yet, because he chose to behave in a way that is guaranteed to further knock down a spouse's self-image, yes, it would be best for your partnership if he could respect your oft-stated request to help you feel awesome by complimenting you occasionally (and you should compliment him too).

It is powerful to know that you are not only appreciated, but also physically desirable in your partner's eyes. In addition to helping boost your self-image, your sexual connection would be better -- and your husband has made it obvious that sex is very important to him.

He has demonstrated that he is able to respect your marriage enough to alter his destructive behavior. He may need coaching from someone other than you to see the connection between verbalizing a compliment and reaping potentially tremendous rewards (which are, after all, in his own self-interest).

It would be helpful for both of you to continue with counseling. If he won't join you, definitely pursue it on your own. Ultimately you may have to find a positive way to disengage from this need of yours.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and have three grown daughters. My husband also has a beautiful daughter from a brief first marriage. I love her very much. We have maintained a very cordial relationship with her mother over the years and see my husband's ex frequently at family functions. The problem is that she seems to be stuck in a time warp. She loudly relays every detail of her and my husband's courtship, wedding, honeymoon and sex life during their two-year marriage -- over 40 years ago. It grates on my nerves. I don't want to say anything that would hurt my stepdaughter or make family functions difficult. How do my husband and I handle these unwanted "trips down memory lane" without causing a family rift?

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--Worried

DEAR WORRIED: You and your husband could (and should) have handled this the very first time it happened.

You should both approach her privately and tell her, "This topic is not appropriate and makes everyone uncomfortable. We are asking you nicely to please stop."

DEAR AMY: "The Invisible Aunt" wrote, " I buy the presents and sign the cards and checks," but when in-law members contacted them, letters and invitations were addressed only to her husband "and family." Perhaps it is time for Uncle John to buy the presents and sign the cards and checks.

-- Pull Your Weight

DEAR PULL: Touche.