Dear Amy: A month ago, my wife of five years told me she was going through a depression and was questioning our relationship. To be fair, I was as well.
We haven't made love in six months. I tell her all the time how beautiful she is. I try to initiate sex, and I get nothing. She finds ways to make me feel bad when I fall asleep early on the weekend and accuses me of drinking too much beer.
I went back to the gym, but that did little to improve our relationship. It only made me feel like a loser.
I offered to make changes (which I did), but things were maybe worse than before.
We decided that separation was best to really figure things out. She again said that we needed to get our spark back. I am having a hard time, as I miss her and my son.
I see him often, but it's not the same.
I confided in an old female acquaintance, and she and I ended up having sex.
I'm overcome with guilt as I never so much as flirted when my wife and I were together.
My wife told me that she loves me and is in love with me, but is unhappy with herself.
If I tell her about my sexual encounter, our relationship will end. I don't want that. I don't want the guilt I have.
I want my family and would give up sex altogether to have her back. I was emotionally fragile and lonely when it happened. It was awful. I'm dying to get advice. I swear I'm not a damn monster I'm just hurting. We are still separated and I'm desperate for advice. -- Guilty Husband
Dear Guilty: You and your wife both claim to be depressed. You are also dissociated, detached (pick your adjective) and spinning out in your separate orbits. Your wife does not want to be intimate with you, and although you claim to have made major efforts to please her, it hasn't worked. The root for both of you seems to be in the way you connect or communicate. Mainly, you don't.
You each need counseling, and you also need couples counseling.
You, for instance, don't seem to have been able to handle having an intimate conversation with an acquaintance without acting out sexually. You should see this somewhat disastrous and unsatisfying sexual encounter as a wake-up call to seek out the help of a professional. I agree that you should not tell your wife about this until you have a better handle on who you are, what you want and where you fit into your family system. A good counselor will provide you with tools and coaching.
Dear Amy: I am a grandma with a large and ever-growing family.
I have six children with spouses, 12 grandchildren with extras and two great-grandchildren.
None of us are poor but numbers are increasing, so we all come to Christmas together at a home where we can spread out.
Last Christmas we decided to exchange gifts of not more than $10, and for each of us to contribute only one gift.
We stockpiled the gifts and then picked a number for order of choice, and then the fun began.
We could choose another one's choice, or keep our own.
This went all the way down to the youngest.
We all still laugh about how much fun it was and they decided to do the same thing this year. -- Gift Problem Solved!
Dear Problem Solved!: This seems to be a version of "Yankee Swap," and I absolutely love it.
In my family, during the bulging years of more kids and spouses, we drew names at the table after Thanksgiving dinner (you drew as many names as were in your own immediate family).
Now we exchange mainly homemade gifts, and donate to charities in one another's names.
Dear Amy: The letter from "Upset Ex," the woman with a manipulative ex-husband who kept going after her for money, is someone who needs encouragement to seek therapy and support.
Even kindhearted people with good boundaries struggle with manipulation that involves a suicide threat. She was married to this man for a long time.
I think your suggestion of a social worker for him is great, but she is likely to need help with the emotional pain of having an ex who struggles in the way he does.
My heart goes out to her. -- Debra
Dear Debra: I agree that she might need professional help, too.