DEAR READERS: I've stepped away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks to work on a new writing project. I hope you enjoy these edited "best of" columns in my absence. All of these questions and answers were first published 10 years ago. Today's theme is: unhappy partners.

DEAR AMY: Several years ago, I had a one-night stand with a married woman. I later learned that she had a child. DNA testing proved the child is mine. I feel horrible knowing that there is a daughter out there who is mine, but loves another man who is not her biological father. I've turned into a hermit, and am unhappy. The mother has decided she wants to clear the air now, six years later. She has lived a lie all this time, and I'm messed up knowing I have a child I may never know. Where do we go from here?


DEAR DESPERATE: Where you go from here is straight to the truth. You know the old saying, "The truth will set you free"? It's true, and you will feel better when you are no longer living a lie. You should tackle this one step at a time, and it would be best to do so with some mentoring and support.

You would benefit greatly from seeing a counselor who could sit with you, listen and offer emotional support and professional advice. Your child is still young. It is not too late to establish a relationship with her. You also have legal and financial issues to consider. People who care about you will not judge you harshly, especially when they see that you are trying to do the right thing. You need to tell the truth for your daughter's sake — and for your own. (May 2009)

DEAR AMY: My wife died seven years ago. Two weeks ago, I was reading a travel diary that she kept while in Europe on business. My wife and I were not married at the time, but had been a couple for 12 years. My wife was staying in a converted castle for a seminar with other managers. I read in her journal that one day she had lunch and dinner with a man named Jerry. I was destroyed. I have brought this up to a few friends and relatives, and most of the women said the same thing — that it was just lunch and dinner. I am angry that she accepted the invitation at all. I know I don't have any way to get the truth, and I also have no recourse. I talked to an old girlfriend of hers who said my wife was a "one-man woman." Sure, I'm thinking — maybe one man at a time. Am I being too critical?

Devastated Husband

DEAR DEVASTATED: Being angry, confused or upset is one thing. But when you start slinging accusations and insinuations around about someone who can't defend her own reputation, you tip the balance and seem irrational and even cruel.

I can think of several very reasonable explanations for your wife's actions. As her loving husband, your instinct should not be to jump to the harshest conclusion, but to assume the very best about someone whom you loved and who presumably loved you. You really need to get a grip about this, but if you find you are obsessing, still angry, and can't let it go, see a counselor. (September 2009)

DEAR AMY: My husband has a female friend that he just can't seem to part ways with. They talk on the phone and send text messages. The other day he dropped off a bottle of wine at her house. What should I do? He says if I keep the house clean, he will stop seeing her.

Upset Wife

DEAR UPSET: His offer of a deal means that he knows what he is doing is wrong, and he is using this as leverage. Carmela Soprano would have told her husband, Tony: "I'll give YOU a deal — you can stop texting her and you clean the house." After you explain to your husband that his behavior is disrespectful and is interfering with your marriage, get busy. Find ways to boost your self-esteem through healthy pursuits. Prepare to have a calm conversation with your husband that starts with the phrase, "Well, now that you've gotten my attention, let's talk about our marriage." (September 2009)

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