Dear Amy:

I am a 38-year-old man and have been married for nine years.

The problem is, I have become very attracted to a 24-year-old woman I work with. I find myself thinking about her all the time. We are sort of friends. We talk a little at work.

I have actually known her for almost three years, but I have only felt this way the past few months. I'm not really sure how this happened, but it's excruciating and I'm trying my hardest to get over it. Also, I know her e-mail address at home and we've actually chatted online a couple of times, so whenever I'm online I hope to see her online.

Do you suggest the best thing to do is to cut off ties with her and just play it off as I've been busy, if she asks why I haven't talked to her much? I'm not sure if she'd notice anyway because we sometimes go weeks without speaking. The other concern I have is if this is a bigger sign of trouble for my marriage.

Do you find that this kind of thing happens with married people? I am hoping it is just a setback that I can get through and get on with my life. I guess I've never really had a "crush" on someone I couldn't reveal my feelings to, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't wish this kind of feeling on anyone, because it hurts!

What do you suggest?

Frustrated and Confused

You should nip this in the bud, before this crush turns into something more. Workplace crushes are extremely common. They have a way of assuming Godzilla-like proportions unless they are stopped in the pupa stage. You can stop this now, and if you do, then I guarantee that it will go away. Do not tell this girl that you have a crush on her -- simply change your behavior, and if she asks if anything is wrong, then tell her that you're really busy.

This sudden crush might be a sign that your marriage is in trouble, or it may be a sign that you and your wife have hit the shank of life and are having a bit of a bumpy transition. People your age sometimes go through a rough period of wondering and reassessment. If you have children, perhaps they're at the stage where they take every bit of your energy at home. You may wonder if anyone will ever see you in the way that you see yourself. Then a 24-year-old comes along to remind you of that exciting and emotional guy you used to be -- before you started worrying about lawn chemicals and house payments.

Use the emotional energy that you expend on this crush and take it home to your wife. Romancing her will make both of you feel good.

It would be helpful if you could find a counselor to discuss this with, not because a workplace crush is an emergency mental-health crisis, but because a thoughtful therapist could help you to wade through your feelings. Look for someone with expertise in working with men at middle age.

Dear Amy:

I have a daughter-in-law who cries and takes any suggestion or criticism the wrong way and complains to my son that I am yelling at her. I never yell at her; however, she has one terrible habit that is very frustrating. The other night I was to pick her up at 7 p.m. I called her to tell her I was there, and she said she would be right down. She finally showed up 25 minutes late and we missed our dinner reservations.

I refrained from saying something, as I didn't want to ruin the evening. How can I let her know that this is unacceptable behavior and that I won't wait that long in the future -- without causing a rift between my son and myself?

Frustrated Father-in-Law

It might not be necessary to make pronouncements. I find that when dealing with people who are chronically late, it is a good idea to arrange to meet them at the restaurant. That way, you can at least sip a soda while looking at your watch, or decide to start eating -- or leave -- if they are running too late.

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

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