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Husband worries that marriage has hit a rut

DEAR AMY: I am a 37-year-old married man living in the epicenter of the tech industry. My wife and I have been married for 10 years and have a 4-year-old son. The problem is that it seems like we are just living together and not really married. There is no family time, no sharing between the two of us, and no intimacies. I have talked to my wife quite a few times about this, only to receive rebuttals. We both work at tech firms and whatever spare time there is, she goes to her parents' house with our son (or by herself). I have tried different ways to try to find out what's going on with her but she doesn't have much to say. This has been going on for some time now and I feel left out. At the same time there is someone at my child's school whom I have started to like. She is the mother of another kid in the same class. While we haven't really talked and I don't know if she is really looking, I feel like talking to her and asking her out. Does this mean it's time to move on?

Unsure Husband

DEAR UNSURE: It is bad form (to say the least) for a married person to ask someone out. But being attracted to someone else doesn't mean your marriage is doomed -- it just means that you are alive.

Many marriages go through a period where the spark, the thrill and the intimacy seem to vanish. This is especially true when parents are working demanding full-time jobs and raising children.

You should try at least two things before you consider giving up on your marriage: Connect with your family as a unit -- this means that on days off, you and your wife take at least one outing with your son. The three of you could kick a ball in the park, splash in a wading pool together or visit your local children's museum. Many parents divide and conquer their time, and it's hard to build a family life when you don't actually spend time together.

Second, you and your wife should have "date nights" where you spend time alone as a couple. If you are both motivated, you can repair your relationship, but it will take a mutual commitment and perhaps some professional counseling to get there.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I are parents of seven adult children, ranging in age from 25 to 34. Recently two of our kids (and one spouse) came home for a visit and we noticed they were never far from their cellphones and even at the kitchen table were on their phones texting or checking their mail. We consider these times together special and my husband, especially, noticed that they were less "present" when on their phones texting, etc. This Christmas all kids and spouses are coming home for our biannual reunion. Everyone comes home and these are special times, especially since we now have grandchildren. The out-of-towners all stay with us. Our question is about the cellphone use during our celebrations and meal times. When we are together at the Christmas dinner table we wish our kids would put the phones away, except for picture taking. My husband wants to set some rules during these family gatherings. I am hesitant to set the stage with rules that might make some of these adults crabby. What do you think?

Babi

DEAR BABI: I'm going to modify the rules of a "game" suggested to me by cellphone-addicted readers.

During your special meals, cellphones go into a basket -- either on the table or elsewhere.

The first person to reach for a phone does the dishes.

DEAR AMY: About the question from "Deaf in Maryland," whose friend's new girlfriend had a screechy voice: It would be great if someone told her to tone it down. All the other people in the restaurant would appreciate it. We have a friend like that and you can see the whole place look at her and want to put a muzzle on her.

Screeched Out

DEAR SCREECHED OUT: I am the only respondent to this question who voted for tolerance.

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