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LifestyleAdvice

Midlife crisis tears family apart

DEAR AMY: Is the male "midlife crisis a real thing?" After 20 years of marriage, my "pillar of the community" husband started acting strangely. He started dressing young, going to bars, and then quit sleeping at night. When I found out he had an affair, I blew up and he took off with the young barfly. Our grown daughters and I are hurt and sad that our family life seems over. I thought we had a great marriage and family. Do these men ever come home? I can easily forgive him and go to counseling to get back on track. We had made all kinds of retirement plans before this happened. In addition to being a husband and father, he is my best friend, too.

Don't Know What to Do

DEAR DON'T KNOW: Midlife crises are not confined to men. And while these changes can seem very sudden, this is a panicked response to the existential crisis brought on by the realization that one's life is more than half over.

When the "crisis" moment arrives (sometimes prompted by a death in the family, a landmark birthday, children about to leave the nest, or job frustration), a person at midlife looks around, sings the old Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is?," and decides that a pumped-up body, a younger partner, or a new toy in the garage will fix everything.

To quote a moment from one of my favorite movies, "Moonstruck," the wise wife looks at her philandering husband and declares: "Cosmo, I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you're going to die, just like everybody else."

Yes, sometimes people who leave in the throes of a midlife crisis do come back. Sometimes, their partner no longer wants them.

But rather than concentrate your energy on your husband's behavior and choices, I hope you will take a long look at your own life. Deal with your grief and the profound loss and change. Yes, cope with your anger and give yourself the release of forgiving him if you can. Understand that his behavior does not negate the happiness of the 20-year family-building phase of your own life. Quoting Peggy Lee again: "If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing . . . " I hope you will choose to "dance" again.

DEAR AMY: I have a very friendly dog that I walk through my neighborhood daily. I have constant issues with two people giving her more snacks than I would like them to. I try to keep my pup on a somewhat healthy diet, but when I say, "Please, only give her one or two snacks," they just ignore me and give her more and more. I have one woman that comes across the street with a whole bag! I am trying not to be mean, but I am ready to get a little nasty. I need a way to get them around to seeing my point of view. Please help.

At Wit's End

DEAR AT WIT'S END: As your dog's human, you have two jobs: Daily "scritches," between her ears, and protecting her from harm. Dogs are instinctively food-focused, which is why delivering small treats is such a useful training tool. Your pooch will scarf down treat after treat, leading to weight gain and health problems, unless you prevent her from doing so.

YOU are responsible for this dog's health and well-being. You need to be a consistent leader.

Let me suggest some human training for you. When these two neighbors approach with their bags of goodies, you should shorten the leash until your dog is at your side. Say to the humans, "Oops. Nope. No more treats. Sorry, but only petting from now on. The good news is that when it comes to scritches, she can have as much as she wants."

You don't need to justify your choice, but if you feel you must, you can say you are operating on "vet's orders." Your veterinarian would undoubtedly back you up on this.

DEAR AMY: The question from "Slighted" provided a welcome morning chuckle. His wife made out and sent a check (from both of them) to celebrate a wedding, and she got the call from the bride thanking both of them. One check, one "thank you." He must have imagined his role in this was to receive separate praise for his wife's effort. Had his wife prepared a meal for the couple would he have demanded an "atta boy" for that?

Harry

DEAR HARRY: I suspect so.

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