DEAR AMY: My wife and I have been married for 20 years. We have one child. Recently she told me she is not happy with our marriage. She said she still cares deeply for me but that she is not attracted to me anymore. I just went through my own minor midlife crisis and will admit that I should have been a better listener and more supportive to her this past year. My family means everything to me. I want us to go to counseling to work through this. She is willing to go but says it won't change how she feels. Recently she has begun to lock her iPad. I was not snooping, but on a couple of recent occasions when I was unplugging her devices from the charger I noticed a lot of notifications from a man I do not know. (She has always told me about any male friends she has had in the past.) One of the messages seemed rather flirtatious. Since then I have noticed at least four notifications a day from him. Should I be worried about an emotional affair, or could this just be idle chitchat? Should I ask her about him or should I wait for us to go into therapy to bring up this subject?
DEAR DESPERATE: You two show superhuman restraint when it comes to communication. "I'm not happy in the marriage" should segue into a series of conversations about your relationship. You seem to have dropped this particular thread.
"Who is this person you keep chatting with?" is also a completely valid question to ask of someone you are sharing your life with.
Do not wait for a therapy appointment to start talking. You should start the conversation now and then discuss the topic (and others) in therapy. One of the most important tools couples' counseling can give you is a new way of communicating. Your wife is telling you that she will not change in therapy. That is a definite possibility. But YOU can change -- and you should determine to try. Read "The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships," by John Gottman. (2002, Harmony). Gottman's research into our "bids" for connection will give you insight into all that you and your wife are not saying.
DEAR AMY: My close friend has recently moved to another state to start a new life and "experience better prospects" romantically. After one week, she's informed me that she is romantically communicating with her ex again via text. He is married with three children and happens to live in this new city where she has moved. While she knows that I don't approve of the relationship because it will never lead to a happy and fulfilling life for her, I understand that she has moved to a new city with no other girlfriends to talk to and bounce things off of. Do I just patiently listen to her romantic tales while I know this is just one more round on the emotional carousel, or should I be honest and tell her these conversations make me feel bad and they're exhausting? It kills me to see her doing this again. She could do so much better.
DEAR DISENCHANTED: You've already been patient. Now be honest. Honest is: "I'm sorry you are choosing to hop back onto this emotional roller coaster with a married man. I feel sad about it because you're making a choice that could hurt a lot of people -- especially you." Unfortunately, she will not start a new life if she is locked into her old choices. Otherwise only her address has changed.
DEAR AMY: The letter from "College Girl" brought a smile to my face. She got upset when her boyfriend didn't return her texts quickly. Times and expectations have really changed. When I wrote letters to my boyfriend in the Navy when he was in Vietnam, I could expect a response in two to four weeks -- maybe -- even though he wrote a letter every day!
Still Married after 46 Years
DEAR STILL MARRIED: Sometimes slow is best. I still write letters.