DEAR READERS: Every year, I step away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks in order to work on other writing projects. Enjoy today’s "Best Of" column (from 2010). I'll be back with fresh Q and A next week.
DEAR AMY: I have been married for 27 years. I work out with a few ladies at a local gym. I have become close with one of the ladies there; she has been married for 17 years. Lady Friend tells me intimate things about her sex life with her husband. Lady Friend does not feel loved or appreciated by him. I have confided in Lady Friend about my marriage, too, but I don't go into detail about my sex life. My wife knows I am friends with this lady, though I don't share every detail of this friendship with her. Lady Friend and I send text messages back and forth, sometimes all day long. Lady Friend takes an interest in a few other men at the gym, and I know she loves the attention. Lady Friend has hinted about meeting me outside the gym. Is it wrong for me to continue being friends with this lady since we are both married? Should I back off? Do you think this lady likes me as more than just a friend?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: My question to you is, do you spend any time, any time at all, on the elliptical machine? Or is your relationship with your "Lady Friend" the only way you elevate your heart rate during these so-called workouts? To answer your question, I don't know if Lady Friend sees you as more than a friend. So, let's talk about you. You and Lady Friend are acting like true gym rats. This is cheesy and sleazy, and you know it's wrong. So, interrupt this particular circuit. Recommit to your marriage and your workouts. September 2010
DEAR AMY: Nine years ago, my daughter and her husband asked me to move with them into a new home. I had been widowed for five years and they felt I should not be alone. (I am now 84 and in pretty good health). We all got along very well until about six months ago, but I don't know why. Nothing was ever said openly. They purchased a lake house recently and spend weekends at that home. I am not invited (nor do I want to be). There are no children involved — just the three of us. I do have a little dog that he seems to hate — but I cannot give the dog away. Lately I get the feeling that my son-in-law is not happy with our situation. He barely speaks to me and mumbles "good morning" or "good night." I contribute to the household, pay rent, clean house, wash their clothes, take care of their dog, etc. I have spent thousands of dollars on this house and paid a third of the purchase price. Should I speak to my daughter about this? She and I get along very well. I feel she knows there is friction here but has not said anything to me about it. Should I look for another place to live? I don't really want to live alone but I will if I have to.
DEAR CHALLENGED: First this: Your arrangement seems to have worked well for everyone for nine successful and peaceful years. Unfortunately, each person in the household seems extremely averse to bringing up a topic — or even asking a question — that might result in an uncomfortable moment or two, and so you have spent the last six months engaged in an extremely uncomfortable silent standoff. It is human nature to avoid discomfort, but you all have taken it to a new level. You are a full partner in this household — you helped pay for the house and pay rent and expenses. Sit down with them (if you can't manage to face him, speak with your daughter). Say, "I feel a lot of tension lately; can you tell me what is bothering you? It would be good to clear the air. I miss the way we all used to get along." This might have started over a very trivial household matter. Or it might not have anything to do with you — but with work, marriage or health difficulties of theirs. Maintain an open attitude and try not to be defensive. Read "Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most," written by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project (2010, Penguin) (January 2010)