Ask Amy: Counseling won’t work without honesty

April 26, 2012

DEAR AMY: I am the mother of two wonderful children, ages 10 and 13. I have been married for almost 15 years.

The last few years of my marriage, I have felt emotionally disconnected from my husband. This past fall, I began having regular contact with a man I used to work with and whom I have known for 20 years. This led to an affair (he is single). At various times, I have tried to cut off contact with him, but have found it too painful.

My husband knows that I have had an emotional affair (because I told him), but does not know the full extent of it, mostly because he does not want to know.

Currently, I am not seeing the other man while I try to work on my marriage, but we have occasional e-mail contact.

My husband and I have been in marriage counseling for three months, but don’t seem to be making much progress.

I think about the other man all the time, and I envision having a life with him. He has told me that he loves me, and I think I may be in love with him too.

Is it time to give up on the marriage and move on? -- One Foot Out

DEAR ONE: You don’t get to decide what your husband “wants to know,” and until you choose to tell the truth (that you might be in love with this other person), your marriage counseling won’t progress because your secrecy is impeding intimacy.

Given the situation, “progress” might be defined as you two deciding to separate. But he has the right to know where he stands.

You don’t mention the impact of your infidelity and your marital issues on your children; do not diminish how life-changing this is for them. And don’t forget how powerless they are to the capricious behavior of their parents. Surely you can give them a commitment of six more months to try to repair your marriage.

During this time you should not have any contact with your affair partner.

DEAR AMY: If you’ve been in or around a high school lately, you’re bound to notice the hormone hive is buzzing around one singular topic: prom.

I’d like guidance on prom etiquette, especially when it comes to asking and receiving an invitation.

Everything is escalated for prom, and random boys will paint billboards or literally shower the girl in rose petals in exchange for the “yes” that she now feels obligated to give. This situation does not seem fair to either party.

For example, a very flattering yet public asking happened to my friend, but she did not feel comfortable saying yes. She whispered “no thanks,” leaving him standing there holding a dozen balloons. She is now universally snubbed for rejecting a kind offer.

How should one deny such an extravagant and public gesture?

The offer is kind, but almost blackmails the girl into saying yes! -- Date Drama

DEAR DRAMA: You very correctly point out the hazards of making these over-the-top public “proposals.”

I agree that they can put the recipient in a terrible position -- and, of course, no one should humiliate another person, regardless of the situation.

If someone “pops the question” in a really big way and the recipient does not want to accept, the kindest way to react in the moment to this is to enthusiastically thank the person for the gesture, while reserving the “official answer” for when the couple has some privacy.

The body language should mirror that of a game show contestant.

If pressed for an answer, she (or he), should say, “I’m a little embarrassed right now, so let’s talk when there aren’t so many people around.”

DEAR AMY: “Neighbors of the Not-Neighborly” don’t like the sound of their neighbors’ kids playing outside.

After my own kids grew up and left home it was much too quiet around here until my neighbors’ kids started playing basketball. I loved every minute of the squealing, yells, shouts and bouncing balls that I could hear coming from next door.

Now they are grown, too, and it’s too quiet again. Perhaps these noisy kids can move next door to me and make my day again! -- James

DEAR JAMES: I’m with you!

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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