Archived Relationship Advice Articles

Direct Answers from Wayne and Tamara

June 12, 2006

Is It Love?

My husband is twice my age. From the beginning I had a problem because I was not attracted to him as an older man, though I found security with him. No, he is not a millionaire or even close, he is just more responsible than those my age.

I always had a problem because he looks very old and has false teeth he takes out when we make love. This is hard for me, but a sacrifice I make for my children's comfortable lifestyle. Also, I have a soon-to-be crippling illness.

The problem is we fight all the time. Whenever I make a mistake or don't do exactly what he wants, he puts me down or gives me the cold shoulder. I am faithful and committed to making it work, but he seems to think I am lucky to have him and he is not lucky to have a young woman.

He says he can do better without me and I should go find a younger man. Honestly, I truly love him with all my heart, but I am not attracted to him whatsoever. It's more of an unconditional love rather than a head-over-heels type of love. Should I stay for the comfort, or do I find someone I can respond to as far as attractiveness, sex, and communication?


Teresa, when we are without shelter, we rejoice in finding a job which will allow us to have our own flat. But once we have our own flat, we want someone we love to share it with.

Where were you on your wedding day? About to marry a man for his money. Where are you today? Married to a man you don't feel is worth the money. When you marry for love, you and your partner can work together to obtain the good things of life. But when you marry for money, you learn that money cannot be turned into love.

The absolute proof is your case: a woman with children and a soon-to-be crippling illness thinking about leaving the man she married for security. With him, you picked based on money. Now you're wondering about picking for looks, sex, or age. Where is love in any of this?

Will a different combination of characteristics solve your problem, or is it love you are really seeking?

Wayne & Tamara


Imperfect Match

In November I met a woman on an online dating site, and we hit it right off. She invited me over for dinner and quickly pursued a deep and intimate relationship. She does not work but spends most of her time in a dark apartment, with the blinds closed, sitting in front of a TV. I work a demanding full-time job.

Things weren't perfect, but I was content. In March I took her out of town for a few days. After we got back she asked when we were getting married. I told her I wanted to wait a good year or two so we could fully develop our relationship. She gave me an ultimatum, so I proposed marriage.

As soon as this happened, she tried to pressure me into having a baby with her and buying a house. She is good in some ways like buying me gifts and stocking the refrigerator with things I like, but she never admits when she is wrong, never apologizes, and never works to correct anything. I feel too much is happening too fast. What should I do?


Brian, for some people, online dating sites are no more than catalog shopping for what they want. You want love. She wants a house and a baby. No matter what the online compatibility test said, you don't have a match. You're not in harmony.

Consider yourself lucky. If she could have concealed her intentions better, you might have ended up married to a woman you cannot live with.

Wayne & Tamara



June 5, 2006


I need you to help me because I feel like I'm going insane. It has to do with my sister and her boyfriend. She's been with him for nine years and living a lie ever since. He's been unfaithful to her since the beginning of the relationship and continues to do her wrong. When times get hard, he runs out on her.

She has a daughter from a previous marriage and one with him. He plays in a rock band and never has time for them. He stays out every weekend and says he has a show, when in actuality he is with another woman. He has girls text messaging him and she's seen what they say to him, yet she covers for him and says it's nothing.

Her children are suffering because she doesn't pay attention to their needs. Just a few weeks ago, he tells her he's leaving her again and moves in with another woman. Then he texts how miserable he is without her and how much he loves her.

I know she will take him back, and I think it will be the last straw for me. I love her with all my heart, but I worry more about what she is doing to the children. She acts as if she can't live without him and will put up with anything--lying, cheating, disrespect--just so he won't leave her. What can I do to help her see the light?


Bernadette, there are only three things you can do. First, you can be the best aunt to your sister's children that you can be.

Second, accept that your sister is in an abusive relationship. For some reason, she is willing to put up with this behavior. You don't understand that reason, but it has great power over her. So to gain more understanding, and possibly be of help, start reading about abuse and contact organizations for abused women.

One question outsiders always have is, How can an otherwise smart, capable woman put up with abuse? "Dragonslippers," a recent book by Rosalind Penfold, provides an answer. Roz Penfold was in such a relationship for 10 years. She kept a diary, and when words failed her, she drew pictures. The book is a graphic portrait of abuse.

Many women like Roz ease into abuse one small step at a time and use common ideas in our culture to justify what they are doing--turning the other cheek, forgiving the other, accepting bad behavior as a disease.

It is a truism that a woman with an abusive man will not leave that situation until she sees things in the particular light which will make her change. For one woman, it might be consideration of the children--their suffering, their future, their well-being. For another woman, it might be understanding that she seeks abuse because she feels unworthy of anything better. For a third woman, it might be a vision of her own future.

In dealing with your sister and her family you must be totally honest. If your sister praises her boyfriend, let her know everyone knows exactly what he is like and how he fails as a man. Don't go along with any imaginary or delusional way she presents his behavior. Let her children know that a good man does not treat a woman this way, and that a woman should never put up with this sort of treatment. In short, educate them to your way--the proper way--to view their home life.

Finally, realize she may never change, and there may be nothing you can do to cause her to change. An accident of birth has linked the two of you as sisters. Just as you cannot allow alcoholic and drug-based behavior, or criminal behavior, or abusive behavior to dominate your life, so you cannot allow her self-demeaning life to ruin your own.

Wayne & Tamara



May 29, 2006

Lascivious Looks

For 15 years I was married to my high school sweetheart. The marriage was abusive, and I suffer from self-esteem issues. The man I'm dating now cannot watch a movie, see a Victoria's Secret commercial, or glimpse a beautiful model in a magazine without saying what he would like to do with her sexually.

Two evenings ago we were looking at a lobstering site on the computer and pictures came up. The only one he chose to click on was of a 20-something, topless female. I became upset. He tells me I am a jealous drama queen, but his need to constantly verbalize his thoughts about other women bothers me.

He says all men look at their female friends, wonder what they look like naked, and think what it would be like to have sex with them. Is this normal male behavior? Am I overreacting? I've asked female coworkers, and they all say they would be upset. Help me understand his way of thinking, and how to deal with him.


Lacy, in a play on the expression "nitpicking," some psychologists have introduced the term "niche picking." What they mean is we often seek a certain environment in which to live our lives. That choice is usually unconscious.

Birds are hardwired to live in a certain niche. For example, bluebirds live in open woodlands and nest in holes in fence posts. Chimney swifts spend their days aloft feeding on insects and live in colonies inside chimneys. Cowbirds feast on bugs stirred up by cattle and lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.

But unlike birds, human beings are not hardwired. We are free to choose in which niche to live. You don't need to understand his way of thinking. You need to understand you are trading one abusive man for another. In asking how to deal with him, you are seeking a way to stay with an abuser.

The first time he made a vulgar remark and you didn't leave, you set the stage for his continued behavior. In the same way, if someone makes a racist remark in your presence and you don't walk away, you've signaled your acceptance. Next time their behavior will grow worse. Why? Because that's who they are, and that's who they think you are.

Don't trade the right to loving treatment for the hope of a wedding. The niche of abuse is not a niche in which to live.



Unanimous Decision

Okay, I can't even believe I'm sending this off, but the fact is I know my friends and family love me and I'm smart enough to realize they are just trying to help. For some reason I need to ask for your opinion as well.

I am a 27-year-old professional woman. I have bachelor's and master's degrees in my chosen field. I work for a public company and deal with stressful deadlines and tense situations all the time. I met a married man, 25, with three children. He is going through a divorce, but he has no education, no real plan in life, and frankly, no future.

He's not done much besides fathering kids. Still I think there is a chance this person and I could be happy together, and he's the one to start a life and family with.


Candace, why did you write us? Because your family and friends are not giving you the green light to go ahead and do this. We aren't either. Otherwise our column would be called "How to Mess Up Your Life."

You describe an intense, demanding, responsible job where your top performance is essential. How could you keep up your work performance with this man, his children, and his ex-wife in your life?

You want marriage and a family, but it's got to be to the right man, a man who can without question support his wife in every way.

Wayne & Tamara



May 22, 2006


I have been married 15 years and now have a daughter, 12. Ours was an arranged marriage. Initially I was not keen, but in our native country we get carried away emotionally with our parents' will.

Before the marriage my husband seemed quite talkative and did not voice his likes and dislikes. Our honeymoon was quiet as we really did not know what to say. Gradually we got attached and followed a routine. As life passed I realized my husband is obsessive-compulsive about cleanliness and money.

With these fixtures in his mind he accused me of being careless in both departments. He made it clear my parents had not given enough and are foolish in not saving enough. On top of that he keeps comparing me to my sister-in-law with her intelligence and sensible parents.

I've done my best to prove my worth for him and for the happiness of the family. Due to these fixtures he does not take me or my child anywhere. It can be months or even years for a lunch or dinner out. We've never gone on a vacation as a family. I work hard to make money, but he is never satisfied.

Now please tell me, what kind of life am I leading? My daughter, too, has given up on him taking her out or giving her time. I need to know if it is okay to start thinking of starting a new life?


Asha, at the end of World War II some researchers studied babies and children who had lost their parents in war-torn Europe. Though these children had enough to eat and lived in a clean environment, they failed to thrive. Some, in fact, died. The ones who survived showed depression of the kind associated with mourning in adults.

There is a difference between living and existing. Beyond our physical needs are emotional needs. The greatest of these is love. With no one to love and no one to love you, there is a huge void in your life. To outward appearances you are all right, but inside you are starving.

To thrive we must be nourished. Otherwise we are like those homeless children, existing but not truly alive.

Wayne & Tamara


Alphabet Soup

My friend spoke to me in confidence, and I don't know what advice to give. She has a boyfriend. Let's call him X. They have been living together four years. Then she fell in love with another man. Let's call him Z. Now she doesn't know what to do.

I know she really loves X, but she looks in love with Z and can't stop talking about him. I don't know how far their relationship has progressed, if you know what I mean. I don't want to see her get hurt. What advice can I give her so I can go on with my life?


Sheryl, in writing there's a thing called point of view. From your point of view you want to give enough of an answer to your friend, F, to satisfy her. If F doesn't like your advice, you can always say it wasn't my advice, it came from W & T.

X, on the other hand, lives with F and probably thinks they have an exclusive relationship. We don't know if Z knows about X, but if he knows, it's only what F has told him. Each letter in the alphabet has its own point of view, but what's right for one isn't right for another.

You don't want F to get hurt, but she's the one doing the hurting. You don't care about X or Z; you care about yourself and your relationship with F. If that weren't true, you'd tell F to break up with X before getting involved with Z. From our point of view, that's the only way to keep anyone from getting hurt.

Wayne & Tamara



May 15, 2006

Daddy's Girl

I am in the process of getting divorced from my wife of 30 years, which she requested. My wife has been an excellent mother to our two children. Both are grown and married with children of their own. The entire family is religious. Marrying out of the religion is absolutely out of the question.

My wife has been having an affair since 2002, and my children don't know anything about it. In addition, he is from another religion. I only learned about it through information, including pictures and love poems, I found on our computer. Her betrayal of me and our marriage continues to hurt deeply.

Given my wife's ability to keep the affair secret, it's unlikely the children will learn about it on their own. I am not looking for them to abandon their mother as she has been, and I'm sure will continue to be, a good mother to them. Primarily, I am looking to make them understand what I am going through today.

Do I tell the kids? And if so, only in person, or can it be done in a letter. Also, do I include some of the overwhelming evidence? By the way, my wife's father had an affair, divorced her mother, and married the woman.


Frederic, when we say someone had an affair, it sounds like one event. Actually, an affair involves thousands of mental acts, and living a double life is a huge psychological burden, a burden most cheaters are unable to bear. That is why they often accuse their spouse of being unfaithful, even when that spouse is the last person in the world who might cheat.

Add your wife's religious background to this, and she needs to make it your fault, at least in her own mind. Confession is supposed to be good for the soul, but she will be tempted to prevaricate for two reasons: to alleviate her own sense of wrongdoing, and to avoid appearing as a hypocrite--one who gave a religious teaching to her children which she does not follow herself.

Many people can't lie for a day or two, yet she lied for four years. She found pleasure in her desire. Time and energy were stolen from her family. Many decisions and acts she made during that time affected her family, but they were made because of the way they affected her lover.

So should you tell the kids? You can't lie by omission as she did. Her wrongdoing shouldn't make a liar out of you. If she was in jail, would you tell the kids she was in Hawaii? What if they found out later? Your honesty would be brought into question.

Perhaps the best way to tell the children is the way they learned of the divorce. Don't tell them in anger, and keep it simple. Make what you say perfectly clear. If they doubt its occurrence, let them know it is not a matter of belief, but a matter of knowledge. Don't offer evidence unless asked.

If you tell them in person or on the phone, both parties will be left with their own perception of what was said. If you tell them in a letter, they will have a written record in their hands forever. It's probably best to tell them sooner rather than later.

One of the problems with good people is they can look at bad behavior in others and not see it. Why? Because it is not something they themselves would do, so they don't suspect a loved one would do it.

The best way to understand the implications of behavior--whether it's infidelity or global warming--is to look it square in the face. The best way for your children to understand their own lives is to understand the lives of others, including their parents. The best way for us to live is in accordance with reality.

Wayne & Tamara



May 8, 2006

Second Fiddle

We've been married six months. Although my husband swears he supports me first, his actions and words reflect that his mamma is number one. My husband believes she's an angel who wants to get close to me, "her favorite girl." I feel this family lives in "Pleasantville" under the façade of the perfect family.

She's a bragger who wants to show me off. I hate it. While my husband finds this flattering, I find it demeaning. I want to be treated like an adult, not a preschooler learning to ride a two-wheeler. My husband would like me to become her best friend.

My mother-in-law told her pastor we would make great youth group leaders. We never expressed such an interest, plus I avoid her church as just another way to control me. One day my husband came home and said, "Mom really wants us to go to this youth group meeting. It's not a commitment, she just wants us to see if we like it. Want to go?"

"Not really," I responded. "You can go. Otherwise tell your mom you aren't interested." He replied, "Well, it's really important to her...." I became agitated and told him I don't spend enough time where I already volunteer.

Then she signed us up for dog class without discussing it. At first my husband said she signed "us" up. When I got annoyed, he changed it to "him." Then he says she didn't sign him up, she talked to him and he just didn't mention it to me. I think he's trying to protect his precious mother.

The first day of class fell on my birthday. I said there was no way I'd go on my birthday. My husband said I would. When I got mad, he dropped it, but he chose dog class with his mother over dinner with me to celebrate my birthday.


Kiki, most behavior is deep-seated. As one counselor remarked, when a new client comes to him, it takes six months just to get him to change his cologne.

When you married your husband, you either hoped for the best or were completely snookered. If you were snookered--hadn't a clue your mother-in-law would be the primary person in your marriage--make that clear to everyone. If you were blindly hopeful, admit you went forward against your own interests.

You can't change your mother-in-law, nor do you have the right. You can't change your husband, only he can do that. The odds are two to one against you. You don't have a right to change them, and they don't have a right to change you. It's simple logic. What others can't apply to you, you can't apply to them.

A song by Madonna says, "There's nothing left to try, There's no place left to hide, There's no greater power than the power of goodbye." It's like seafood. If you're allergic to seafood, you can't live with it. If you can't live with it, you can't love it.



Point Of View

I've been dating my boyfriend for a year and a half. He was married for four years, and from what I've been told, it was a pretty bad marriage. I've never been married.

I have a daughter, 2, from a previous relationship. I now have a 5-week-old boy with my current boyfriend. We act like we are married, but marriage doesn't seem to be getting any closer. I want to get married so badly, but anytime I bring it up he gets defensive and ignores me.

I'm starting to think it will never happen. Why can't he just commit?


Daryn, when you go to a job interview and don't get an offer, it's not because the employer has a commitment phobia. It's because he doesn't want to hire you. Regardless of what your boyfriend says to you, he doesn't want to marry you.




May 1, 2006

Morally Unfit

I'm 25, married for six months. There are two issues for me: one, I got married for the wrong reasons to the wrong man, and two, I am currently sleeping with my 40-something married coach.

The first of my problems is that in the three years since my husband and I got engaged, we've taken different paths and grown far apart. I became active and started eating healthy, while he stayed sedentary, eating hot dogs and cookies all the time. I am a triathlete and travel the country competing. I eat an athlete's diet, organic and natural only.

I do this for health and because of beliefs I've developed about farming and the environment. My husband doesn't even have a gym membership and refuses to eat healthy. This is the way he's always been, but until recently I guess I ignored how much it bothers me. I made the mistake of thinking he would change, especially after we married.

I make a conscious effort to show interest in things he does, but I can't talk to him about my training because he doesn't listen. He never comes to my races. It is hurtful because I work so hard and love what I do. I feel we no longer have enough in common to have more than a basic friendship.

The second issue is my coach. He approached me at the gym a few months ago, asked if I had a coach, and asked if I wanted to be part of his team. I joined his team and at first we had a normal coach-athlete relationship. Then it escalated to a sexual level after he e-mailed one day saying I was beautiful and had pretty eyes.

He is married with two children. When it started, we agreed it would be physical only because we didn't want our spouses finding out. I have no problem with that, but he seems to push the emotional side of it. He calls me when he is out of town. He e-mails from work all day, and we go back and forth about sex, training, and relationships.

He will ask, "Do you miss me?" Or say, "I felt a spark last night at the pool." Or mention, "You are definitely someone I could fall for." Then he will turn around and say if it gets emotional it has to stop.

I know this all makes me morally bankrupt and a huge cheater, but I've gotten myself into it and don't know what to do.


Sally, one of Oscar Wilde's stories has this memorable line. "When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one has a right to blame us." Admitting to being morally bankrupt is a defensive gesture so we won't throw stones at you. We're going to throw stones anyway.

You knew who your husband was before you married him. He hasn't changed. You thought you had the power to transform him, but you don't. Green bananas ripen and change color when you get them home. Tomatoes and lemons do the same. But not people. Greatness doesn't get concealed. You can't marry someone thinking they are keeping their light under a basket to surprise you.

Frankly, it's hard to see your canoodling coach as a person instead of a type. He's like the villain in an old-time melodrama. When he comes on stage, dressed in black and twirling his mustache, we know he's going to foreclose on the widow and seduce her daughter.

Coach has played this role many times. He has his lines down pat. Give the latest conquest the ground rules--spouses must never know--then play her emotions like a fiddle.

You've damaged four other people. We'd give you advice, but you already know what to do. You need a new cast of characters in your life, and your relationships need to be as healthy as your diet.

Wayne & Tamara



April 24, 2006


My girlfriend is really upset over her friendships. On her last birthday her two best friends didn't show up. All her friends constantly break plans with her which makes her feel unwanted and lonely. She lives in an emotionally abusive home and needs good friends, but she feels if she gives up the old friends she will have no one.

She also feels every new friend she makes will do the same thing. I've suggested she find a club or group where she can meet people with similar interests. I even went so far as to look up her university and send her Internet links. However, I don't think she intends to try them.

She considers my friends and their wives or girlfriends more like friends than her own. When I tell her to give them a call, she says she wouldn't feel comfortable talking about our relationship with them. While watching me play volleyball, she became close to one of the girls I play with. I told her to e- mail this girl or I can, but she said it would be strange calling her up after so long.


Rafe, your girlfriend can't get a new family of origin, and they won't change. Why would she think she will be treated well by anyone, when she has not been treated well by the people who are supposed to love her? Why would she think she can escape from any situation in her life?

She is in a prison, and people in prison become institutionalized. They would rather stay in the life they know than take a chance on life outside prison walls. That is how she views things.

But beneath her bad experience is her human essence, and that essence is positive, hopeful, resilient, and able to change. We are not the kind of people who tell others to "have a nice day." We are realists. We are saying this because it is true.

Your girlfriend needs someone who can show her how to get past emotional abuse. You've tried to help her and failed. That suggests she needs skilled help.



Mending Her Ways

I've been in numerous relationships, and I'm only 18. That's not the problem. The problem is I want to end it with this guy who's two years younger than me. I don't trust him because, well, we did stuff I now regret, but I can't tell him that. If I say I regret it, I'm afraid he's going to tell everyone at school. It was his first time.

Anyway, I'm going to college next year and don't need a high school sophomore on my tail or on my conscience. I don't know how to end it without him saying, "Oh, you just used me." Or something like that. He promised he wouldn't tell, but he's so immature. I really need your help.


Mandy, whether he tells or not is not the issue. Promise or no promise, he likely told someone that night. Whenever you have to extract a promise of secrecy, it's a good sign that is not a person you can trust.

Don't focus on him. Focus on yourself. In what way is your sexual behavior to your advantage? You're only 18, and you are making black marks on your sexual résumé. Realize you made a mistake, and mentally decide you are not going to do anything like this again.

If you truly change, it does two things. For you, it ends a pattern of negative behavior, and for some good man, it will prevent him from being plagued by thoughts of your past. If something is no longer relevant, why should it ever be spoken of?

That's the difference between good therapy and bad therapy. In bad therapy you keep wallowing in your past problems; in good therapy you solve them, learn from them, and move forward in your life.




April 17, 2006

Faulty Forgiveness

I am not sure I need answers, but I do know some comfort would help. I'm trying to come to terms with the fact my daughter no longer wants me in her life. I will keep my door open, as she well knows, and nothing can affect how much I love her. She will come to her own decision about what the future means for her and for me.

I had to love my daughter and grandchildren enough to let them go. I considered it selfish of me to want to know the children so badly that my attempts to reconcile with their mother only created trauma for them. I find peace in knowing in my absence my ex-husband's common law wife has assumed the role of mother and grandmother.

I try not to be resentful that my ex-husband is allowed to be grandpa. His violence with me was the reason for my decision to raise the kids alone. So I'm trying to be grateful my constant encouragement to my children to forgive him had a positive result. But every so often despair hits me and I sob for days.

Why is there forgiveness for the man who was violent, but none for the woman who loved them enough to go it on her own for them? What happened feels so unjust.


Wilma, in Jane Austin's novel "Pride and Prejudice" Mr. Darcy knows what a scoundrel George Wickham is, but he conceals it. Elizabeth Bennet does the same. Both think they are acting from the best of motives, but their conspiracy of silence creates most of the problems in the book.

People need to understand that telling the truth is not the same as telling tales. Telling the truth is not gossip or calumny. When you know a plumber is dishonest or unreliable, you harm a friend by withholding that information. In the law it is called withholding a material fact.

We once knew a woman who was thrown down a flight of stairs by her husband. During the year it took to recover from her injuries, she divorced him, but she thought it best to conceal the reason from her two young children. Today her children blame her for breaking up the family.

Just as people mistake truth-telling for telling tales, so they often misunderstand the nature of forgiveness. Forgiveness means not holding hatred in your heart. It has nothing to do with allowing someone to resume an undeserved position in your life. Forgiveness is not a free pass which allows someone to come back in your life to harm you again.

The world works far better when people are known for who they are and bear the consequences of their actions. That is justice--the principle underlying every legal system--and that is why what happened to you feels so unjust.

Wayne & Tamara


Game Over

I met this young man while playing an online role-playing game. After months of playing well together the shard was going to shut down. He and I were leaders of our group, so we tested shards together to find another one for our group.

By his mannerisms and maturity, I assumed he was in his 30s at a minimum. He is intelligent, humorous, has sex appeal, the whole package. He wants to spend the rest of his life with me. We both agreed to meet for the first time in September when my youngest is off to college.

He doesn't care about our age difference and wants to introduce this to his family as painlessly as possible. Any suggestions? He's 18 and I'm 45.


Danelle, in the virtual world some people are called grief players. Their play inflicts harm on others. Don't become a grief player in the real world. Aside from the inevitable disillusionment, there's another principle at work here. Adults don't have sex with children.




April 10, 2006

Skewed Numbers

It wasn't until I moved in with my boyfriend that I discovered the surprising rates of divorce for couples who cohabitate before marriage. There seems to be no end to the warnings and statistics, which are taunting me with the thought my boyfriend and I are doomed before we even begin.

Four months after my high school sweetheart broke my heart, I asked my current boyfriend to go out. We were both in the same place in life. We grew up in similar households, attended the same college, and even worked together. A month later we moved 2000 miles from our comfy nests and moved in together.

It was difficult because I struggled to trust myself to love after my first heartbreak. Eventually I enjoyed being with someone who shared the same values. We've both enjoyed the challenges of saving, earning, and spending for two, and I've learned to work together we have to adopt one another's goals as our own.

I admit our relationship may have started a little fast and maybe on the wrong foot, but it has grown into a real partnership. I'm a tender but mature 19, and my boyfriend is 21. Marriage is quite a bit down the road for me, but I would love someday for our relationship to blossom into a long-lasting marriage. How can cohabitating couples beat the odds?


Alicia, many years ago there was a man who owned a chain of hotels. Each day he wanted to know how his hotels were doing, but gathering information from each hotel was burdensome. One day, while looking at financial data, he realized the amount of potatoes served in the restaurant of one particular hotel was an almost unfailing guide to the gross revenue of the entire chain.

So each morning he had the manager of that hotel phone him with the amount of potatoes served from their kitchen the previous day. That is one example of the use of statistics. Here's another. Imagine a person who compares the increase in ministers' salaries with the increase in liquor consumption, and then argues there is no point paying pastors more because they will only spend it on drink.

The statistics on cohabitation include couples who have little in common. Some couples live together as an alternative to loneliness, others as a way to share expenses. Some have set a date and live together only after formal engagement, while others come from dysfunctional families and will have a difficult time forming a stable relationship with anyone.

There are three things to remember about statistics. First, just because two things are associated with each other, it does not mean there is a causal connection. Second, general trends do not predict the results of any individual case. Third, statistical categories include subgroups which have little in common with each other.

There is a huge difference between the couple deeply in love, and a couple where the woman uses cohabitation as a way to ease a man into marriage, while the man sees it as no more than an avenue for sex, housekeeping, and laundry.

When Wayne was young there was a teenage ballad called "Tell Laura I Love Her." It told the story of a young man who enters a stock car race to win enough money so he and his girlfriend can marry. He is killed in a wreck, and his dying words are, of course, tell Laura I love her.

The lyrics are so mawkish and sentimental they make your skin crawl. But there is one line in the song which is memorable. "He wanted to give her everything." That is how people deeply in love feel about each other, and two people deeply in love will always beat the odds. The depth of their connection is the key.

Before you marry, make sure it's right. It has to be perfect love.




April 3, 2006

Communicating A Lie

My girlfriend and I were madly in love when I packed up and moved to Las Vegas. She followed soon after. I knew when I left I didn't have anything to worry about. She came to Vegas, and we started our lives. Two years later we got married and bought a house. Two years after that her sister and husband came to Vegas on their vacation.

Before they arrived, out of the big blue sky my wife said, "Honey, I have something to tell you. On my last night before I moved here I had a get- together with friends at my sister's house. We had a few drinks and after a few hours everyone left." So I say, "After four years you tell me this. Why?" She said, "I just wanted to be honest." I was thinking, Yeah, right.

So I said, "Who was there?" She mentioned some names. I said, "Is that all?" She said, "Yes, honey, I swear on my parents' graves." So I let it go and didn't think anything of it. Two years later she comes out and says, "Oh yeah, my ex-boyfriend was there, but nothing happened and I didn't sleep with him." I about dropped my drawers.

Here I felt I had the perfect lady, and now this. I asked her to explain to me the night's events step-by-step. She became defensive, angry, and told me it's in the past. Don't worry, she said. Well, why tell me six years after she hid it from me, when her story isn't consistent enough to believe?

I still haven't found out what I want to know. It always turns around on me. Why can't she come clean? What is she afraid of? She preaches to me about communication but doesn't follow her own standards.


Karl, your letter reminds us of the story about a monastery where monks take a vow of silence. Only once each year is a monk permitted to speak. One year a monk said rather harshly, "Pass the salt." The following year his brother monk replied, "I don't care for your tone of voice." The year after that their abbot scolded, "All this bickering has to stop!"

Your wife tried to protect herself in case her sister spilled the beans. That didn't happen. Now your wife regrets mentioning the subject. In spite of herself, however, the truth keeps trying to pop out of her mouth.

Communication skills are sometimes said to be the key to good relationships. But rather than teach women to drink beer, poke each other in the ribs, and watch football on television--as men do--men are told to express themselves verbally as women do.

The evidence this strategy works is weak. In reality, people have different aims, and these different aims are the root of the problem. Your wife has a guilty secret. Perhaps she or her sister will tell you, or perhaps you will learn that good communication is what people want only when it serves their own interest.

Wayne & Tamara



I have a friend, actually an ex-girlfriend. We went out for three years and broke up a year ago. She goes to college, doesn't have a job, and her family doesn't help her out as much as I believe they should. So whatever her family doesn't do for her, I do. I pay for stuff like she's family.

Sometimes I feel she doesn't appreciate everything I do. She limits when she can hang out with me because of her boyfriend, and I get upset. Am I pursuing something I shouldn't be?


Austin, when you feel the wind whipping past your ears, when you see the scenery rushing by, when you feel the road bouncing beneath you, you are being taken for a ride. It's time to jump in the driver's seat and leave her in the rearview mirror.




March 27, 2006

Doing Hard Time

I am a 33-year-old man, never married, no kids. I've never had a girlfriend in my whole life, but my parents want me to get married. They've even offered me girls, but I'm not interested. I am scared to get into a relationship. I feel issues will come into play which will distract me from my work and keep me from doing my best.

I must be married to my job because it is demanding, gives me support, and is my purpose in life. Relationships only cause anger, discord, and constant fighting. The good times cannot possibly make up for that. Only a good, secure job can provide me with happiness and security, unlike any woman.

If a marriage does not work out, it would be much like a life sentence with no possibility of parole. If I wanted a divorce, my parents will come on me hard and stress all marriages must last forever. At least I can change jobs if the job does not fit me. I would not have the same flexibility if I married a girl who later becomes the most unsuitable partner!

My relationship with my parents is very strained, and it is detrimental to my happiness and self-esteem. They feel I am abusing them. There must be some point when life can become my own. Is it wrong to not want to get married? How can I convince my parents it is wrong to talk me into marriage?


Sanjay, where did you get the idea marriage is hell on earth? From your parents. Why is your relationship with them strained? Because their life together has been a battlefield, and you are rejecting their model.

That's the problem when badly married people stay together. They show their children this is what you seek, this is what you get, this is all there is. Adult children replicate their home. It takes a very strong person to break that mold. We salute the child who graduates from college even though his parents never did. Why shouldn't we salute the child who breaks the pattern of his parents' bad marriage?

A recent song by Bon Jovi is called "Welcome to Wherever You Are." One line says, "You got to believe that right here, right now, you're exactly where you're supposed to be." It's time to grab control of your life. When does your life become your own? When you have this realization.

What do you tell your parents? As another Bon Jovi song says, "I can forgive you but I won't relive you." Tell your parents you don't want what they had. Expect them to deny they have a bad marriage, but their very denial demonstrates they cannot be truthful with you. Your response must be, That is not true as I have seen and lived your marriage.

Once free of this burden, you will begin to ease up and live. Then who knows what is possible. Perhaps you will want to share your life with another. Perhaps what your parents did is too deeply instilled, and you will seek a pleasurable life for yourself. Either way, it will be your own choice.

Wayne & Tamara


Idle Chatter

Was I wrong? A waitress called my husband "dear," and I responded by saying, "Well, sweetie, what do you want?" I embarrassed him. I'm sorry I did, but I do not think my behavior was out of line.


Agnes, what did the waitress want? A decent tip. That's all the words "dear" or "honey" mean from a food server. You were merely in a zoo; save the catty behavior for the jungle.

Someday you may be in the wild kingdom and need to claw another female. Reserve your feline fury for that day. You've shown your husband your claws are sharp. Point made. Now admit you put your paw in your mouth and move on.




March 20, 2006


I've been married 15 years and have a wonderful husband and two children. About a year and a half before I married I was seeing a man I wanted to fall in love with me. The first time I slept with him he said, "I'm set in my ways, and I like my freedom."

I kept hoping he didn't mean what he said, but eight months later our shallow relationship ended. After my marriage I would bump into him periodically--it's a small community--and he said, "Out of all the girls I've been with, and there's been a lot, you're the only one I think I could have had a future with."

Whenever he talks to my mother, he asks how I am. When I see him, he always says what stupid things he's done with his life. He never married. In November I saw him at a party and we talked. I could tell he is pining. It's almost painful to watch.

Now I can't stop thinking of him. As a catharsis I decided to write him a letter. The letter talks about our relationship, my feelings now, and says I will always think of him though I need to get on with my life. Should I give him the letter?


Jan, when you dated this man, what was the reality? He was not going to give you a wedding or children.

In hindsight people have regrets, but regrets are not love and he didn't have the requisite love for you. Life passed him by, and young women are no longer parading through his bedroom. He fantasizes if he had you, his life would be different.

That's the key to a disastrous life--focusing on a past event and wishing it had been otherwise. He's like the man in the casino who feeds a slot machine for three hours and walks away, only to learn the next person won a huge jackpot on "his" machine. Years later he's still imagining what he would have done with the money.

Burn the letter. He wants you to rescue his past, and that's not something you can do.

Wayne & Tamara


No Laughing Matter

I am thinking of divorce. My husband has become increasingly mean, unappreciative, and ugly. He lashes out over the smallest things and blames me for everything. We both work full-time and take night classes. We are under stress, but I am sick of using that as an excuse.

Several weeks ago we went to dinner with another couple. As we left the house my husband carried a box to the car, and I held the door open for him. One of our dogs squeezed past and ran into the yard.

We were trying to get him back in the house when my husband stepped in dog poop. He didn't notice it until we arrived at the restaurant. It was a small area smashed into the tip of his shoe. He went to the bathroom to wash it off and came back to the table so angry.

He told me if I hadn't let the dog out, he wouldn't have stepped in it. It was my fault. He embarrassed me in front of the other couple and people at nearby tables. He was so mean everyone felt uncomfortable the rest of the evening.

This type of thing happens almost every day. I don't know how much more I can take. I've made compromises and every effort to change my ways to please him, but nothing works.


Michelle, Steve Martin did a comedy routine about two swinging Czech guys in stripped shirts and checkered pants. In their "native land" a breakup is accomplished by saying, "I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee. I throw dog poopie on your shoes."

You've already done the dog poop. Now say the words.

Wayne & Tamara



March 13, 2006

Shooting The Messenger

I am writing to object to your one-way, no alternative advice when it comes to infidelity. While other long-term advice columnists--such as Abby and Ann Landers--always recommend counseling, you two go to the other extreme of "forget kids and family, let's divorce immediately."

Every case is different! How can you be so judgmental? My guess is, it is based on your personal experience. The divorce rate is high enough. Please stop trying to increase it!

People change over the years; people grow apart; sometimes it is possible through hard work to grow back together. This can be a wake-up call. A heartbreaking, devastating wake-up call! I only ask that if one person recognizes they have made a mistake and wants to reconcile with their spouse to whom they pledged "till death," don't be so one-way and adamant in your advice!


Violet, the narrator of Daphne du Maurier's novel "The House on the Strand" is a man named Dick Young. At one point Dick says, "Truth is the hardest thing to put across." We agree, and we would define truth as that which corresponds to facts. Truth is not what we wish to be true or what we would hope to be true. Truth is what corresponds to facts.

The most obvious question about adultery is, Why is there such a strong taboo against it? The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle grouped adultery--along with procuring, poisoning, assassination, and desertion of a comrade in battle-- as an act which must always be wrong. Jesus of Nazareth in the Sermon on the Mount listed it as a case where divorce is permitted.

Virtually all religions and legal systems make adultery the one instance where divorce is allowed. Why? There must be a reason deep within us. Cognitive scientists use the term "unconscious" to describe brain structures we cannot view directly, but which we know by their effects. Is that where this taboo comes from?

Who taught the 16-year-old girl to feel jealous when another girl gives her boyfriend attention? Who taught the 16-year-old boy to feel sick to his stomach or angry enough to fight when an older boy moves in on his girl? No one taught them. Those feelings are innate, and there is no evidence counseling can change innate brain structures.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of marriage counseling in the United States. If there is someone under a bush or in a cave who doesn't know about marriage counseling, we'll leave it to the 99 percent who know about it to inform them. But we won't imply that marriage counseling can do more than it can do.

People may stay together for financial, religious, or social reasons, but we never get letters from people who say they "got over" their partner's infidelity. The letters we get are from those who feel the pain of betrayal decades after the fact, or even years after the death of a spouse. Why? Because, as humans, we want love from someone who loves us to the exclusion of all others. Infidelity is the proof we don't have what we most deeply crave. There is simply no way around that.

People need to hear they don't have to put up with a spouse who violates the most basic tenet of the marriage contract. Strong reasons from religion, law, and cognitive science support leaving. If one person knows the other won't leave no matter what, then that party has enslaved the other.

We agree with you that the divorce rate is high enough, but we also believe in dealing with reality. We could give the traditional yadda yadda yadda answer which implies everything can be fixed, but that would fail the truth test.

Truth is that which corresponds to facts, and as Daphne du Maurier's character said, truth is the hardest thing to put across.

Wayne & Tamara



March 6, 2006

Fatal Attraction

I can relate to a letter I saw in your column. I am not 33 and successful like the letter writer, but a sassy Goth-type girl, 16, who makes really good grades. My problem is, I believe, I have a fatal attraction for bad boys and I sympathy love. When I say "sympathy love," I mean I like a guy just because he's nice to me on first impression.

That's what happened with my first relationship. I liked this guy, who was kind of a bad boy, so I talked to him. He pushed me away. His friend came up and soothed me while I was crying. We talked for a few days and soon went out. Then he started being mean, saying bad stuff about my friends and family, and lying. The last straw was when he made it appear he was cheating on me with a girl he had a crush on.

I admit I have a family problem in that my dad used to drink and verbally abuse my mom. He's better now, though, and things are much different. The pain's still there. Right now I have a crush on a guy who's not the best in the world; he's a druggie and kind of violent. He's really nice if you look deep down, and problems can be fixed.

Am I looking for the wrong guys? Or is it just me? As a last note, I am a goofball type person. I fear people don't take me seriously. I act silly all the time and still watch cartoons. Is that possible?


Madison, you're right to say problems can be fixed, but wrong about whose problems. Your own problems can be fixed with effort and determination, but you lack the power to fix someone else's problems. It's a little like voting. You get to vote, but you don't get to vote for someone else. One man, one vote. That's the rule.

You're not looking for a bad boy, you're looking for dad. Your dad showed you what a husband is, except he was a bad one. Your mom showed you what a wife is, except she was an abused one. Families can be as destructive as they are supportive. Things may be different now, but the damage has been done.

That is what dressing like a Goth suggests: black moods, a negative outlook on life, and placing yourself as an outcast. On the positive side, though, it gives you a circle to fit in. You are a member of your own club with your own uniform.

The first step in breaking your parents' pattern is to acknowledge you are seeking addicts and abusive men like your dad. Personal counseling or a practice like the relaxation response, popularized by Herbert Benson, can counteract the tendencies your parents developed in you and teach you to thwart abuse.

Wayne & Tamara

Free Will

I am very much in love with this girl. I knew I found the right person the moment we were introduced. I thought it was going to be easy for me to get her, but it has been hell. Her picture will not leave my mind. I made her know I will do anything under the sun to make her happy.

I dated another girl to delete the first girl from my memory, but it did not work. I had friends talk to her, but her answer was still the same. What do I do? If she will be mine, I will be faithful and love her all my life.


Jacob, the only answer you will accept is yes. No matter what you think you could do for her in the future, it counts for nothing because you won't listen to her now. Your life will become easier when you realize your will does not get to usurp the will of others.

Wayne & Tamara



February 27, 2006

Standing Alone

My mother-in-law of 17 years is a nasty, difficult European woman who has been in America for 45 years. I don't know if we're having a culture clash, a personality clash, or both. For starters, in the beginning when my husband and I lived together she called me a whore, then the day after the wedding she asked me to call her mom. I refused.

We've been having loud arguments ever since. This upsets my children, so three years ago I stopped talking to her. It took her two and a half years to figure out that's what I was doing. She causes major marital problems as my husband refuses to protect me from her. He says she's always been that way, so tune her out. That's what he's done since high school.

Well, I can't tune people out. She criticizes my cooking, states I shouldn't have married her son, then denies it all when I confront her. I am considering a divorce over this as I can't live with someone who doesn't support me. Yet I don't want to break up the family.


Marianne, G.K. Chesterton wrote, "There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one."

Sometimes a man doesn't realize a woman values him for his ability to protect her from harm. If the man won't stand up for her, she will lose respect for him. When your husband was growing up, he treated his mother like annoying music on the radio. He couldn't turn her off, so he learned to tune her out.

It's not that he disagrees with you. He knows she's a problem. The dispute is how to react to her bad behavior. A book we recommend is Susan Forward's "Emotional Blackmail." It is a primer on how to handle annoying people like your mother-in-law.

In countries where women are free to initiate divorce, divorces are usually initiated by women. When a woman gets to the end of her rope, it no longer matters if her husband is finally ready to act. It is as if a switch has been thrown, and there is no turning back.

If your husband doesn't deal with this problem, then he's left the choice up to you. He needs to realize this. The Susan Forward book can help you both, but if he won't confront his mother, then in six months we may get another letter from you. That letter will begin, "I met this man...."

Wayne & Tamara


Thorny Consequences

What do you think about a woman who has children, remarries, and still keeps her ex-husband's name while married to a new man? Is it for the sake of the children? I don't see that is the case with my fiancé's ex because she has no problem abusing him or me or both of us in front of the children. She's even driven down the road in a fit of rage screaming profanity about us with the children in the car. How do we know that? Because we heard it over the cell phone.


Giovanna, her decision about her name is neither here nor there. It is a decision totally within her control and totally beyond yours. If she wants to call herself Elvis Presley, Mother Goose, or Punxsutawney Phil, she can. Since this is something you can do nothing about, let it go.

You are faced with more serious problems. Your life is about to be linked with a woman whose behavior is out of control. How are you going to deal with her? How are you going to protect the children from her rage? These are the questions you need to answer. Once again, we recommend Susan Forward's book "Emotional Blackmail."

Wayne & Tamara



February 20, 2006

Broken Circle

My wife and I married nine years ago and have two wonderful children. We were high school sweethearts who married after dating four years. About a year ago we fell into the swingers lifestyle.

This was a mutual decision we both enjoyed. However, problems started creeping into the relationship. In my opinion, she is addicted to chatting on the Internet to people in the lifestyle. She uses the computer at least six hours a day, checking her e-mail, chatting, and showing herself on her webcam.

It upsets me she would rather chat than spend time with me after our kids go to bed. She thinks I'm being childish when I tell her how it makes me feel. Now to be fair, I'm no saint. I'm moody and have a temper. I've looked into anger management and keeping things under control.

One of the things I'm supposed to do is verbalize and talk about how I feel or why I'm upset. When I do this, my feelings are basically thrown back at me as being stupid. It's come to the point where I have to schedule time with her. Not just sex, but normal time sitting and talking, or watching a movie.

I love her with all my heart, but I'm not sure how long I can feel ignored. I do not want my kids growing up in a broken home, nor do I want them to pick up on our relationship issues.


Brad, you married too soon. You both wanted to date after marriage, which is what the decision to swing is all about. Now one of you wants to continue to date. The problem? You are not that one. Why can't you tell her enough is enough? Why can't you throw the webcam away? Because she'll say, "I want a divorce."

You are in the same position as the woman who says to her husband, "Honey, don't you think you've had enough to drink tonight?" She cannot speak forcefully or pour the booze down the drain because she doesn't want him to leave. That indecisive behavior shows her husband she knows she is in a weak position and he can continue doing whatever he wants.

Parents can't hide Christmas presents from their kids, much less hide their own emotional turmoil. That is why infants cry when they sense their mother is upset. You are deceiving yourself if you think your children don't know about your problems.

The reason to get married is you and your partner decide to close the circle. There will be no others. Once you break the circle, the marriage is over. The relationship is dating. As soon as your wife finds someone else, what is now fact in her behavior will become fact in law.

Wayne & Tamara



Your response to Peggy, whose teenage son was having sex with his girlfriend in their home, should be required reading for anyone anticipating parenthood. She was right to trust her gut reaction. I took the kinder, gentler approach to discipline and thought reasoning would be better than conflict.

Instead of having two maturing, young adults, their behavior is more akin to feral animals. I didn't win any points for being the "good guy." In fact, I lost their respect. By the time I finally had it and spoke up, it was too late. Someone in the family needs to be the alpha. Being Oatmeal Man doesn't work. I say to Peggy, "You go, Girl!"

Don't be afraid to shout loud and shout often. Don't feel bad about being a "bad guy." Feel proud of yourself for being a strong role model. Sign me "sadder but wiser."


Monica, what is true of stoves and streets is also true of sex. Without rules, someone gets seriously hurt. In dealing with our children, it's what matters now, and what will matter 20 years from now.

Wayne & Tamara



February 13, 2006

Animal Behavior

My future mother-in-law is always putting me down. A few months after meeting me, she started nitpicking my weight. I'm not fat you know, just a size 9. My fiancé and I go to dinner with his parents a lot, and she contests everything I say, like she is the only one well-versed on any subject.

One night at dinner she ordered a huge dish from the menu. She complained she was embarrassed about taking food out of the restaurant and asked the waiter to put the leftovers in a container. When he brought it back, she placed it in front of me so it would look like I'm the one carrying it out.

She saw nothing wrong with that, so my fiancé moved it from me and put it in front of himself. She also pretends I'm not a significant part of her son's life, and she's even insulted someone in my family in front of me. My fiancé says he will talk to her about it, but I doubt he will say what needs to be said.


Noreen, sometimes we are better off looking at problems from the most base level. At first blush the issues here seem to involve common courtesy, respect for others, or even the need to turn the other cheek at times.

But looking at this in the most base terms, what is going on? One animal is trying to impose its will on another. Your future mother-in-law wants the dominant position, and she wants you in the subordinate position. There are no excuses--cultural, social, or religious--to justify what she did at the dinner. It was an act of pure, naked, animal dominance.

Since she's put your relationship in those terms, the only choice is to respond in kind. When a puppy piddles on the carpet, with effort you can correct its behavior. But if you let the behavior continue unchallenged, it will only grow worse.

There is an old saying that a son's a son 'til he takes him a wife, but a daughter's a daughter all of her life. If the first part of that saying is true of your fiancé, your mother-in-law will be a manageable problem of your marriage. If it is not true of your fiancé, you will have a problem which grows worse year by year.

Wayne & Tamara


Vicious Vixen

I'm in a long-distance relationship at the moment. I love my boyfriend very much, and the relationship is good. Recently I met someone and things kicked off really fast between the two of us. We are really interested in each other. It feels as if we've known each other for years. We are comfortable with one another and really open and honest.

I don't want to push the issue of an official boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with him. My suggestion is we remain as friends, then we can determine if we should remain as friends or if something was meant to develop out of this. If something deeper develops, at that time I'll deal with the situation with my boyfriend. Am I wrong in this?


Dawn, on the sly you're trying to lynch your boyfriend. You've built the scaffold, put the hood over his head, led him up the stairs, and tightened the noose. Now you're positioning him over the trapdoor. Before you drop the door, will you tell him he's at a lynching?

C'mon, can't you do things in the right order? Horse, then cart. Break up with the old before starting the new. Your old boyfriend thinks he has a girlfriend, and he doesn't. What might he think when you break up with him? That women are sneaky, nasty creatures. And with you, he's going to be right.

There's nothing wrong with being attracted to someone else, but the honorable course is to end one relationship before starting the next.




February 6, 2006

My Three Sons

Just before Christmas as I was coming home from Christmas shopping, I saw through the basement window, my 19-year-old son and his girlfriend having sex. It was early evening, and my husband and my other two sons were home. I was incensed.

I was ready to march in there and raise the roof. My husband, on the other hand, thought that it would be a mistake and convinced me he would talk to our son the next day. He did, but candy-coated it by saying he thought he had seen them doing something and not to do it again. The bedroom door was also to remain open.

I wasn't happy with that but went along to keep the peace. Two days later I came home from work at 11 p.m. and found them in his room again with the door closed. Their clothes were on, but I yelled at them and asked her to leave. For almost six weeks now my son and I have not spoken.

My heart is broken because I don't know what to do. I'm the bad guy again, and my husband can't see what the problem is. He feels I should apologize for shouting at them. I feel an apology is in order from my son. Am I missing something? Have I lost all perspective?


Peggy, you are not operating a bordello or a flophouse. Your home is not a place where people meet to have sex. Your son is living in your house under your rules. If he wants different rules, he can move out, support himself, and make his own rules.

In setting rules for your son, there are several things to consider. You don't want to become a grandmother any sooner than necessary, and you don't want drugs or alcohol abused in your home. You do want parents of girls to know your house is a place with adult supervision, not a bachelor pad. And you want rules which are reasonable for all three boys.

As long as the boys are in your home, their problems automatically become your problems. The discussion of rules must begin with your husband. His desire to be a "cool dad" undermines the need for order in the household. There is no reason for you to be a bad guy, prison guard, or the only grown-up in the house.

Wayne & Tamara


Lola Wants

I will admit I did not know my husband well when we married. We are both in our early 50s, and I wanted to find someone to spend the remaining years of my life. What I have come to realize is he is still a little boy who is self-centered and uses his anger to control me.

I feel he will lie to me to get his way. For the most part we cruise along with not a lot of acrimony, but underneath the surface I don't trust him doing things in the best interest of our marriage. He did cheat on his first wife, and I found e-mails to and from a woman I don't know.

I get angry sometimes because he pretty much does what he wants, yet I have a nice house, don't have to work, and things are okay most of the time. I have a history of lousy relationships. I don't want to go into therapy, and I don't want to start over again either.


Lola, you don't want to lose your nice house, you don't want to work, you don't want to go into therapy, and you don't want to start over. Based on what you've said, we suggest you call David Copperfield, the magician.

A man who has walked through the Great Wall of China, levitated over the Grand Canyon, and made the Statue of Liberty disappear may be able to help you. But we can't. What you want is a magic trick.




January 30, 2006

Not Seaworthy

I have a question that may be something I alone can answer, but perhaps you can assist. Here's hoping.

I love my boyfriend. He is a wonderful man, with a great heart and soul. No one else could care for me as deeply as he does. We've been together three years, and although marriage has been brought up in passing, we've never discussed it at length. It's reached the point I feel if I am not going to marry him, I should let him go.

He hasn't pressured me, asked about forever, or anything of that nature. But I know if I said today "let's get married," that would be all I needed to say. We have a good give-and-take relationship, but I still wonder. Would it work, would I be happy, would we end up like so many others in a dreadful relationship 20 years down the road?

I look at other men and think what my life might be like if I were with them and consider "trying them out" so to speak. I go back and forth on this and don't know if it's just my young age, 23, the fact that by nature I am indecisive, or if I am, as another of your reader's wrote, only 99% in love with him.

I don't want to wait until there's a big white dress in my closet to realize I'm on the wrong path.


Addie, we use the word "love" in this context. Love is what you feel for the one you want to be with for the rest of your life. That word in relationship to anyone else is not love. For example, I love him but he's hitting on my sister, or I love him but I can picture myself with other men, or I love him but anything else... That's not love. It's desperation, wish, hope, desire, innate need, or even a craving to be abused. But it's not love.

How do we know you don't love him? You are already predicting the relationship's demise. You are leaving yourself an out. You've left the hatch on the submarine open. If you marry, expect to hear the rushing of water, the bonging of the alarm, and the cry to abandon ship.

Some research has looked at who fares better in relationships: people who follow their gut feelings, or people who weigh pros and cons. That research tilts in favor of the gut feeling people. They are more likely to stay in a relationship which lasts. Why is that true? You have an emotional stake in your gut. The "reasons" for staying with someone are head stuff. Head stuff can change, and head stuff doesn't involve you personally.

Another way of saying this is Occam's razor. The simplest answer is usually best. There are no extra parts to go wrong. The complicated answer has failure built into it.

Wayne & Tamara



I appreciate your candid and prompt response. It confirms what I believed to be true. Although I feel pain and sadness for what I have to do, your response gave me the last bit of a push I needed to actually do it. Thank you very much, you are just wonderful!


Addie, your feeling of relief proves this is the right decision. Like all good people, you do not want to hurt someone else. But just as a doctor often must inflict pain in order to cure a problem, so you must inflict pain in ending this relationship. The greater injustice would be to do nothing.

Doing what you must doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a mature person. Some days we get to dance all night. Other days we have to scrub floors. The test in life is that we do the appropriate thing, whether it is easy and pleasurable or not.



  January 23, 2006

For Son's Sake

I have been with my husband 20 years, and he is an alcoholic. His father and brother are alcoholics as well. My husband witnessed violence in his home growing up, and still to this day it goes on. I recently made him leave my house because he is abusive while drinking and doesn't remember it.

This is affecting my 16-year-old son as well. He is the sweetest kid, and I know this hurts him a lot. I do not want to leave my husband because he is the best person when he isn't drinking. I want him to get help, but I do not know how to get it. As long as his mother is enabling him, I know he won't get help.

I want him to get help so we could be a family. My son asked me if we were the only family going through this. I've tried to tell him we aren't. I know it will be hard on him if his father leaves because we will also lose a big family.


Elsa, army ants marching in a column sometimes become confused. The lead ants stumble across the tail of the column and start to follow the stragglers. All the ants then march in a circle, going nowhere, until they die from exhaustion. That is what living in a multigenerational alcoholic family is like.

You are concerned for your son, and you should be. Children of alcoholics endure thousands of days during which they have no control over the turmoil around them. To survive they bury their feelings. They become people pleasers who cannot trust themselves. Not surprisingly, they fail to learn workable solutions to problems. How could they? The central problem of their life is a problem over which they have no control.

The first step in recovery for an alcoholic is to admit the problem. The second step is to admit they haven't done the first step. The third step is to actually do something. What is true of the drunk is true of the enabler of the drunk. If you have been with your husband 20 years, you are his enabler.

What is an enabler? An enabler is a person who has the power to change a situation but refuses to do it. When you made your husband leave the house, you took the first step toward not being his enabler. You cannot control his alcoholism, but you can stop enabling it.

It sounds noble to say you don't want to lose a big family, but the family you're talking about is one where screams and punches and children cowering in closets are commonplace. That is a pattern which must be broken.

Unlike the army ants, if you break this pattern of circular behavior, the only one who is likely to follow you is your son. Breaking the pattern will be hard, but it will be the making of you as a person.

Wayne & Tamara


Art Of Living

I've been reading your column for two years and ordered your book after my marriage went belly up. Just as I resolved I could live my life without a man, I met someone in one of the most unlikely places, a chat room. We really hit it off even though we couldn't be more different, yet all of our differences seem not to matter.

It happens to be my 38th birthday today, and I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be at peace with my life. I don't know how my story will end, but I know I will be all right no matter what, whether we spend the rest of our lives together or just a couple of days, weeks, or months. Thank you for articulating what I have always felt.


Nell, once we understand how to live within our own skin, life always seems good.

Wayne & Tamara


  January 16, 2006

Unlawful Search

I need someone to give me an honest answer, so when I saw your column in the paper, I thought maybe I can unload what I have on my mind. I live in a small community and work for my father. Several weeks ago I was looking for change to purchase water for the crew, and I know my dad keeps loose change in his desk. As I was looking, I saw a notebook.

I know it was none of my business, but what I discovered was a listing of dates and money paid, with some initials and remarks written beside the money amounts. As I was going downtown I tried to figure out what it all meant. Then it came to me. He was having an affair. I couldn't believe it, so when I returned to work I photocopied the book and took it home to try to figure it out.

Ever since I've had a sick feeling, can't sleep, and can't even look at him anymore. My parents have been married for 39 years, and from what I figure, he's been paying for sex for seven of those years. My mother would never discover this because she doesn't drive and him being late has been a way of life for as long as I can remember.

She is a stay-at-home wife who waits for him, cleans for him, and always has a hot meal waiting for him no matter what. She has sacrificed her life for him, and for what? A cheating husband?

Do I say anything to my Dad? I would never say anything to my mother because I know it would devastate her. My point is I have information that could change my family forever, and a time bomb waiting to happen when and if his mistress decides to spill the beans.


Vesta, when someone is being hurt by a cheater, we typically say go ahead and tell. But our usual advice doesn't apply here for three reasons. You may be misinterpreting the notations in the notebook; you won't tell your mother under any circumstances; and after seven years this time bomb is likely to be a dud.

Sometimes the law embodies a wisdom which can be applied to daily life, and that is the case here. You invaded your father's privacy when you searched his desk. One legal principle which applies to searches is called the elephant in the matchbox. It means if the police are looking for an elephant, they can't look for it in your matchbox. You had no reason to look for coins in your father's notebook and no right to photocopy what you found.

Another principle of law--one which applies to evidence--is called the fruit of a poisonous tree. That principle says evidence gained through an illegal search can't be used in court. Since the tree is poisoned, all its fruit is tainted.

What you did is akin to sneaking a look at a diary, peeping into a bathroom stall, or using a pinhole camera to photograph a woman on a tanning bed. It wasn't an honorable act. Although we may find spies useful, we seldom find them honorable.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is examine your own motivation. You mention your long-suffering mother, but we suspect there may also be a long-suffering daughter who sees this as an opportunity to settle an old score with her father. If that is the case, using this information is not the way to do it.

A character in a Stephen King novel says, "Peek not through keyholes, lest ye be vexed." You did something you should not have done, and vexation is the price for having done it. Keep this information to yourself. If you have issues with your father and employer, then address them directly without using this information to gain the upper hand.

Wayne & Tamara


  January 9, 2006

Built On Sand

We have been married 10 years and have a daughter, 5. She was legally adopted and is not my biological daughter. My husband adores her.

Our marriage was not based on what you call "love" but was, I guess, out of convenience. We were both new immigrants to Canada and found ourselves convenient with each other. We got married. I love him, and I am pretty sure he cares for me in a special way, too. We lived a comfortable life in Toronto until we moved to New York because of his job.

We adopted our daughter when she was an infant. At that point, my husband met a married woman based in Montreal. He admitted his feelings for this woman and told me he would like to have a life with her. If I agree to separate from him, this woman may separate from her husband.

This hurts me a lot. I have not done anything wrong during the years we have been together. I've devoted my life totally to him and our daughter, which he does not deny. I told him I won't make things easy for him since he is messing up our lives. I can reject the idea of separation, can I not?


Reyna, the "Persian Letters" by Baron de Montesquieu is a tale about Usbek, a traveler from Persia.

Usbek has a harem in his homeland, and when he travels to Europe, the harem revolts. Freed from their master's control, the wives and harem guards do what they are now free to do. Even Usbek's favorite wife, the one he most trusts, is found with a lover. The point of Montesquieu's story is that our nature will always try to assert itself.

The mind is a river whose source is unknown, but that river has very strong tendencies. Perhaps the strongest of these is the tendency to find love. You say you love your husband now, but a woman who is intimate with a man will always call that love.

You confess that your marriage was a marriage of convenience. In a marriage of convenience it is not unusual for the marriage to end because one or both parties find someone they truly love. The point of Montesquieu's story is the never-ending dilemma of your marriage. Love was not the basis of your marriage and that is what your husband seeks.

Wayne & Tamara


Questionable Relationship

Even if I don't get a response, maybe just typing my question will get it off my chest. I have been "seeing" someone since June. We go to the movies or for walks, maybe dinner, and we snog a good bit. We do this once a week or so. It is definitely becoming more frequent and the make-out sessions more intense. But...what are we doing?

I called him today to go out a full 10 days away, and he said he was pretty sure he would be busy because he has lots of obligations. Okay. That was a blow- off, right? We are both graduate students who live at home and have jobs, but no kids or divorces or anything which would over-complicate this. Are we "friends with benefits," or are we dating? Can I ask him this? Or is that taboo?


Andrea, if you can't ask a man if you are dating, you shouldn't be snogging him. If there was a real connection, you would know you are dating, and you wouldn't hesitate to speak openly. "Friends with benefits" describes a relationship which is no advantage to a woman. It's a step down from "he's getting the milk for free." At least in that case a woman knows she's dating the man.

Hold yourself of higher value. Imagine you are a prize to be won by a man who asks you out and sees his contact with you as a relationship.

Wayne & Tamara


  January 2, 2006

Liar, Liar

I am wondering if this is fair? I work and my employment benefits include life insurance. My husband came to watch me sign him as beneficiary. He then took out family insurance through his bank and showed me a page of the insurance form stating if he dies I am his beneficiary.

Later I heard him on the phone with his daughter telling her she and her brother were his beneficiaries. They are grown and married, with well-paying jobs. Is this fair? When I asked him about this, he said it was not true. He said I heard wrong, which I did not.

He claims he lost all the paperwork, though he has not lost so much as an old hunting license in his life. I wonder if he mailed the papers to his daughter. When I asked to see the forms, he said he would just cancel the insurance, which is fine. But he did not cancel.

I do not care if he has insurance or not. I am not a taker. It is the principle of feeling loved, cared for, and equal. His bank account is with his daughter also, not with me. I've bought him many things, make the truck and car payments, and pay the rent. I love him but wonder if he loves me or considers me an outsider.


Freda, your husband hasn't lost so much as an old hunting license. Is he lying to you? Does a wild bear poop in the woods? Heck yes.

You are sharing a bed with a man you don't share a bank account with. You must know where you stand if he dies. Will his children inherit everything, even the two vehicles you are making payments on?

If he doesn't come up with the information you need, at the very least change the beneficiary on your life insurance policy to someone else, even a second cousin twice removed. Forcing his hand will dictate your next move.

Wayne & Tamara



I am a 30-year-old single mother of one. I've been dating a man, 40, for two years. He is a wonderful person, takes exceptional care of me, and is attentive to my needs. He is the best man I have ever dated, but I am in conflict about my feelings for this man for as long as we've dated.

Our problem lies with communication. I don't feel he understands how important communication is to our relationship. Often I feel left out of the loop because he doesn't communicate simple things I feel are important. Sometimes I feel it is because I am younger, and he views me as a child. Other times I feel he just doesn't get it.

Sometimes I don't know why I love him, or if I love him. Recently I wonder if I want to get married just because it is what you do after two years of dating, or if I really want to be married to this man.


Erin, the car he drives, the clothes he wears, the way he folds his arms--all that expresses who he is. The way he communicates with you is who he is. He is who he is, and after two years you haven't fallen in love with who he is.

If you loved him, he would feel right. You wouldn't feel he is treating you like a child, you wouldn't feel out of the loop, and you wouldn't feel you are marrying him just to get married.

All signs suggest you should step away from this relationship. Have we communicated this clearly enough? Picture a police officer with a bullhorn. He brings the bullhorn to his mouth, the microphone crackles with static, and he roars, "Keep your hands to yourself, and step away from this relationship!"

Erin, you need to be available for a relationship you feel passionate about.

Wayne & Tamara


Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at: .

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